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Gainesville school budget looks better than expected
Board ended fiscal year 2011 with a $6 million balance
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Only a handful of Gainesville City Schools employees — and no members of the public — were present at the school board's general budget hearings Wednesday.

"It's because of you that we're able to maintain the high standards that we expect," school board member Delores Diaz said to the employees present. "Because of the foresight of our leadership and our conservative approach to the budget, we will make it through, I think, without a glitch."

Janet Allison, chief financial officer for Gainesville City Schools, presented the preliminary budget and explained how the board ended fiscal year 2011 with a $6 million balance as opposed to the $838,698 predicted. Much of the $6 million came from unexpected sources such as state cuts that weren't as severe as expected.

"We anticipated the state might cut us $1.3 million. We basically took out and didn't budget any expenditures for the $1.3 million," Allison said. "We weren't cut near that amount, so we're doing a budget amendment to add that back to the budget because we will get most of that money."

The school system is facing its share of challenges, however.

The system won't get funds from the Jobs Bill or American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for fiscal year 2012, and property taxes are expected to drop "by a minimum of $1.8 million." In addition, state funds are set to drop by $300,000.

Employees were warned the work schedule would be reduced eight days for fiscal 2012.

"If everybody went back to their full 190 days at the current millage rate, we couldn't do that because then we'd be back in deficit," Allison said.

"With eight days reduced, the revenue is the same, but our expenditures will go down $1.5 million. That's the least amount of days we could do to reduce expenditures to an acceptable level."

Allison said her goal was to find a way to get expenditures down to $54 million or less before the tentative budget is presented in June.

One thing the board has not budged is step raises based on years of experience.

"We have continued to move everybody up a step," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. "They're not getting frozen on the schedule."

Dyer said the board did more research to ensure employees would not face fixed salary levels. She said this includes looking ahead at who will be getting advanced degrees.

"We can't afford not to," Allison said. "The last three years in a row I have asked for principals to send in who is getting an advanced degree and during what time period."

Dyer said every employee with fewer than 21 years of experience is going to make more money in fiscal 2012. She said only four employees — including herself and Allison — did not fall under this category. Right now, she said, everyone will be paid for 182 days of work, but that might change.

"This year for '12, if it's possible — not likely, but if it is — for us to recommend to give back a day or more of the work schedule, then we would definitely do that," Allison said. "But we've got to get into the year and see how the digest comes out. Right now the crystal ball is kind of fuzzy."


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