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Cutting 20 teacher units highlight of Morgan budget

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

The Morgan County Board of Education plans to cut 20 teacher units as part of its strategy to build its savings account.

The board approved a 10-point plan Thursday for meeting a state mandate to increase its savings to at least one month worth of operating expenses, which is about $4.58 million. The system ended the 2006 fiscal year with about $1.6 million.

State Board of Education officials told new Superintendent Bob Balch and Finance Director Rodger Spillers and representatives of 31 other school systems that they want a plan to start cutting expenses and adding to reserves by Feb. 23.

“They didn’t give us a timeline to attain this goal,” Balch said. “We just have to show that we’re working toward the goal.”

Balch said state BOE Finance Director Craig Pouncey knows that the school system can’t make up the deficit in one year.

“But if we’re not showing progress, they will come up here and make the cuts for us,” Balch said of a possible state takeover.

Because salaries and benefits make up 85 percent of the budget, Spillers said the school board would try to cut the teacher units by not filling slots left open through resignations, retirements and routine nonrenewal of contracts. He said the school system typically has about 50 openings every summer to fill due to attrition.

Spillers said after the meeting that Morgan County had a $6 million savings in 2002, but gradually the number of teachers paid out of the general fund grew to 60 local units. He said ad valorem and sales tax revenues didn’t increase as anticipated, while growth often forced the school system to add teachers to keep class sizes normal.

School board member Carolyn Wallace said she doesn’t like having to cut teacher units when the system is facing unfunded mandates like the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. Wallace went along, however, with the unanimous school board vote to approve the plan.

“You can tell me to cough up a gold monkey too, but that’s not going to happen,” Wallace said.

The remaining parts of the plan are:

  • Reduce the number of teacher aides.

  • Use federal program funds for salaries whenever possible.

  • Delay large expenditures from local funds for renovations, maintenance and building projects.

  • Reduce costs for extracurricular transportation whenever possible.

  • Reduce travel to a minimum, using professional development whenever possible.

  • Reduce student transportation costs.

  • Recover indirect cost for federal funds where possible.

  • Have the state Board of Education evaluate the Child Nutrition Program, so the school system has to spend less out of the general fund to support the program.

  • Eliminate maintenance department overtime.

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