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Jackson County school board OKs budget
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JEFFERSON — The Jackson County Board of Education approved the school system’s $89.2 million 2010 budget Monday knowing that more state funding cuts could be coming next year.

The 2010 budget, which Assistant Superintendent for Finance Jeff Sanchez spoke about in detail at the board’s work session Thursday, has almost $900,000 less in revenues and about $1.2 million less in expenditures compared to the 2009 budget.

"This is an unusual budget for all funds," Sanchez said. "It’s still a work in progress. We’re still looking for ways to save money."

The system has had to be creative in finding ways to cut costs in 2009, from implementing a reduction-in-force plan at the end of March to closing the regional evening school and instituting a furlough plan.

About 86 percent of the 2010 general fund will go toward salaries and benefits for employees in Jackson County schools, Sanchez said.

That total was reduced slightly this year when the system eliminated 22 paraprofessionals, the assistant superintendent for human resources and support services position, the regional evening school positions and others in the reduction in force plan.

Faculty and staff also found nonpersonnel-related ways to cut back, including restricting out-of-system travel, eliminating funding for band camps and scaling back on instructional software.

Jackson County schools received some financial help when American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding from the federal government trickled down to school systems. The funds will help cover some software costs and pay for several positions, including instructional coaches at the two high schools, support specialists and a student achievement specialist, among others in the 2010 budget.

While the school system was looking for ways to save money, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced at the end of July that Georgia’s teachers would be furloughed for three days this year, and that education funding in Georgia would take a 3 percent hit to deal with the state’s $900 million budget shortfall.

The move followed a 5 percent slash to state agencies and three days of furloughs to other state employees.

Superintendent Shannon Adams said the state funding and local funding for school systems used to see a 80-20 ratio: 80 percent coming from the state and 20 percent coming from local funding sources. But the scales have been tipping more toward local schools in the last several years.

"When QBE was passed in 1982, the original intention as you know by now was to have an 80 percent-20 percent split," he said. "There’s been a trend in that over a period of years where the state portion decreases and the local portion increases year after year."

Building and staffing Gum Springs Elementary, Kings Bridge Middle School and East Jackson Comprehensive High School also took a toll on the school system’s finances.

"One of the main things we’ve got to remember is we were not in a good financial position when the funding crisis hit because we built three large new schools in three years," Adams said.

"A month’s power bill for the three new campuses was $34,175. That’s $35,000 we weren’t spending before those schools were there."

And he acknowledged how hard the staff has worked to accommodate the changing budget situation.

"Everybody’s making sacrifices and we really appreciate it and couldn’t get along without it," he said.