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Virtual meetings could cut costs for substitute teachers, gas reimbursement
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Hall County school officials are discussing ways to cut costs in the wake of rising fuel and electricity costs.

In the school board’s first approach to the fiscal year 2009 budget, Superintendent Will Schofield presented options for cutting costs in the long-term — costs that are projected to rise by nearly $1.3 million in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Schofield said the implementation of a new "virtual" meeting software called GoToMeeting could keep the system from having to pay substitute teachers to watch classes while full-time teachers attend meetings at the county office.

It also would negate the need to reimburse employees with gas money for driving to meetings.

By holding "virtual" meetings as much as possible, Schofield said the system could cut $40,000 from the proposed $74,708 budget for substitute teachers in fiscal year 2009.

School officials have also discussed transporting cheerleaders and athletes to sporting events on the same bus, as well as using the same bus for students who are going from different county schools to the same event. That would cut fuel costs, said Jewel Armour, executive director of operations for the school system.

Schofield also proposed that the school system continue contracting out janitorial services and move away from full-time custodial employees. He said salaries are about 90 percent of the system’s proposed $217 million budget and noted that one long-term custodian who is retiring this year will be replaced by a contracted janitorial service.

"(We’re) encouraging people to outsource everything they possibly can," Schofield said.

Schofield also proposed contracting services for instructing hospitalized and homebound students.

"We spend tremendous amounts of money sending teachers to homes for hospital/homebound," Schofield said.

However, outsourcing student transportation would not be as cost-effective as employing bus drivers, Armour said. Schofield added that the Hall County school system had the second most efficient student transportation system in the state.

The proposals came in the board’s first discussion of the fiscal year 2009 budget, and the board has not made any budget decisions for fiscal year 2009.

After presenting an overview of the budget, which is currently proposed to be $16.9 million more than the current fiscal year, Schofield advised board members to take a closer look at the 19 pages of dollar signs before reconvening next week.

"Go back and dissect it, and we’ll do the same," Schofield said.