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School systems brace for more budget cuts
Flexible class schedules might be answer, association says
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JEFFERSON — When it comes to budgets, Georgia school systems may not have seen their bottom line shrink for the last time.

In a recent telephone conference, Georgia School Boards Association officials warned that there could be more budget reductions on the horizon.

Realizing that Georgia school systems are trying to reduce expenses, the GSBA chose to have its annual Legislative INFOrum via telephone conference, instead of having area board members gather in one spot. During the session, GSBA officials discussed legislative issues that could impact school systems.

In July, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that schools would lose 3 percent of their expected state funding. That announcement came after state agencies, including school systems, lost 5 percent of their funding in an effort for Georgia officials to bridge the gap in budget shortfalls.

“The governor doesn’t have the authority to make budget cuts without the General Assembly being in session and approving the actions he takes,” Phil Hartley, GSBA legal council, said during the conference call to school board officials, including Jefferson City Schools administrators. “Instead, technically what the governor did was give an order to withhold certain allotments that were coming to (local school boards), or a percentage of those allotments.

“Just as you had to deal with the governor’s reductions in allotments, once the General Assembly meets, we anticipate not only that it will adjust the budget midterm to actually take these funds out of the budget, we anticipate that the General Assembly will also probably have to make even deeper cuts.”

As a way of dealing with budget cuts, Hartley says that some school systems may want to consider reducing the number of classroom days for students.

“Our suggestion has been from the beginning for local boards to develop a well thought-out plan (to deal with budget cuts). Some systems have looked at the modification not only of employment calendars, but to student calendars as well,” Hartley said.

According to Hartley, systems have been allowed to reduce the number of days that students are in class, as long as they receive the same number of instructional hours they would receive in the traditional 180-day school year.

In Jefferson, administrators say they are waiting before making any further changes to the system’s calendar.

“I was familiar with most of what was stated (during the call). For me, it mainly confirmed what I felt like I already knew: many issues remain on the table,” said John Jackson, Jefferson superintendent of schools.

“The (Jefferson City Schools Board of Education) just issued final approval of the fiscal year 2010 budget on Sept. 8. I think we will wait on more specific and reliable information before taking any additional steps.”

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