Hall County school officials believe the district should end the fiscal year on June 30 in decent financial shape, with revenues exceeding expenses by as much as $7 million.
"That sure will come in handy as we look at the draconian cuts that we’re facing (next fiscal year)," Superintendent Will Schofield told the Hall County Board of Education Monday night.
Board member Nath Morris said the system faces dire financial times but could be in worse shape, giving examples of several surrounding and metro Atlanta school systems that are having to tackle huge budget shortfalls.
"Some systems are just reeling," Morris said. "... It has been painful, but thank goodness we have our eyes above water."
Chairman Richard Higgins said that when it comes to "options for balancing the budget next year, there are no easy solutions.
"I don’t think anything has changed recently as far as state revenues. ... I think we were prudent starting a year ago October starting to talk about the upcoming crisis and ... I think we’re in better shape than a lot of other people."
The discussion came after the board held the second and final public hearing on whether to close Jones Elementary School in the Chicopee Village community, a move that could save the system $1 million in operating costs. That vote will be held later.
One cost-saving measure the school board took Monday night was to hire Service Solutions, a contract for custodial services that Schofield estimated will save the same at least $300,000 per year.
In other business, the school board voted to OK charter petitions for Martin Elementary and Chestatee Middle schools. The board had previously given OKs to the petitions, but "minor adjustments" have been made since then, Schofield said.
Charter school applications for the schools, along with McEver and Wauka Mountain elementaries, are set to now go before the state Board of Education.
The board also approved Riverbend Elementary School’s intent to explore charter school options.
"We think we have a great school already, but I feel like we’re ready to move the school to the next level," said Riverbend’s principal, Debra Smith.
With charter status, schools are allowed to structure instruction around specific academic themes and philosophies.
The school board also heard from parent Cindy Rose, who said she would like to see better nutritional menus for students and was willing to work with school officials to make changes.
Rose is the parent of a second-grader at Chestnut Mountain Elementary School and a rising kindergartner at the World Language Academy.
She said she believed the system was forward-thinking in other ways and should be more proactive with lunch menus.
"You can be a role model for Georgia," Rose said.