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Gainesville school system faces tough budget choices
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The Gainesville school board will spend the next month or so determining its priorities as it builds a roughly $51 million general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the board has a lot of tough decisions to make regarding personnel, which makes up more than 80 percent of the system’s budget.

The personnel decisions arise as the system braces for less state funds for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The school district is further burdened by an estimated $5.6 million deficit. The school board plans to reduce the deficit by $1.8 million by June 30.

“We’ve got some reducing to do in the next two to three weeks,” Dyer said of the budget. “... Do we have some large class sizes and save on personnel or do we hire some personnel back and have some smaller class sizes?”

Dyer said she hopes the system will be able to rehire three to five teachers who were notified in April their contracts would not be renewed for the 2009-10 school year. She said the teachers are needed at Gainesville Middle School.

“Some of the people we would like to add back are not in the budget and that is our challenge over the next few weeks,” Dyer said.
Gainesville school board Chairman David Syfan said he aims to strike a balance between being a good steward of taxpayer money while reducing the deficit and maintaining smaller class sizes.

“I’m hopeful that where we’ll end up ... is that we’ll have one or two kids more per class,” he said.

Gainesville schools Chief Financial Officer Janet Allison said property tax collections are “on track” compared to last year.

She said the school board is considering a general fund budget that includes about $51 million in revenue and about $49 million in expenditures. She said the $2 million difference can be applied to the deficit by June 30, 2010.

That $51 million budget does not include about $10 million in federal funds, Allison noted.

Several public hearings on the Gainesville school system budget will take place May 26 at Gainesville Exploration Academy.

As the school board considered personnel expenses Monday evening, it also announced the retirements of Centennial Arts Academy Principal Susan Gilliam, New Holland Core Knowledge Academy Principal Jill Goforth and Gainesville High School Arts and Sciences Academy Principal Linda Youngblood.

Youngblood will return to work for the school system part-time in August as a director of instruction in the system’s central office.

Pam Wood will move from her position as the Gainesville High School Ninth Grade Academy principal to the principalship at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy next school year.

Charlene Williams, who is the assistant principal at Centennial Arts Academy, will serve as the new principal of Centennial. Centennial teacher Leslie Frierson will become the school’s new assistant principal.

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