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Stimulus to make up $2 million loss in Hall schools' budget
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Budget numbers are starting to settle for the Hall County school district following a week of more state cuts.

Hall County schools Superintendent Will Schofield said Gov. Sonny Perdue’s revenue revision, which announced on Thursday an additional $121 million to be cut from next year’s district budgets statewide, will slash nearly $2 million more from the Hall system’s budget. Federal funds largely will supplement those cuts.

That brings Hall County schools’ state cuts for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, to a total of $13,238,000.

Schofield said he hopes the cuts are the last for the system as it attempts to build a budget with more state cuts and $1.5 million less property tax revenue than expected. He said the most recent state cuts were accompanied by an announcement that the Hall County system also can expect $9.6 million in federal stimulus stabilization funds.

"We’ve done our cutting, we hope," Schofield said. "We think we’re done."

He said the state has asked the school board to remove $9.6 million worth of programs and services from its $207 million general fund budget so they can be supported using the federal stabilization funds. The remaining $3.68 million in state cuts already had been included in the proposed budget.

"It’s really more of an accounting change than anything," Schofield said.

The proposed budget accounts for a 2.4 percent pay cut for all system employees. The pay cut, which has yet to be approved by the board, would generate $3.5 million in savings for the system.

Between the 100 teacher contracts not renewed for the 2009-10 school year and roughly 18 paraprofessionals who were recently dismissed and attrition, the system will have 125 fewer positions as compared to last school year.

Consequently, the system’s business service expenses will increase $700,000 this upcoming fiscal year in anticipation of unemployment claims.

The school board also cut 8.7 percent of the system’s general administration expenses for the next school year. But school board Chairman Richard Higgins said property taxes will not increase.

Schofield said the system expects to have a $5 million surplus going into fiscal year 2010 and aims to end the year with a roughly $6.8 million surplus.

"We’re expecting more state budget cuts throughout the year, that’s why we think this cushion is so important. And we think it’s adequate," he said.

The superintendent said he expects budget amendments to be a near-monthly occurrence as the board accommodates changes in funding and the economy.

The school board plans to adopt a tentative budget at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Hall County schools central office at 711 Green St. The meeting will be residents’ last chance to comment on the budget before school board members adopt the final budget June 25.

The school system also is working to fill several assistant principal vacancies, said Hall County assistant superintendent Richard Hill.

Sue Vaughn, who was assistant principal at the World Language Academy, now is the school’s new principal.

Robin Gower, who was assistant principal at Flowery Branch Elementary, is expected to be the new principal for Tadmore Elementary School, Hill said.

Beth Skarda, who was assistant principal at Sugar Hill Elementary, is expected to be named the new principal at Sugar Hill.

Hill said Drew Rogers, who left Riverside Military Academy this year, likely will serve as the new assistant principal at Sugar Hill Elementary.

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