Muscogee County School Board asks for exemption from state budget cuts

The Muscogee County School Board is asking for help from the state in dealing with expected growth from Fort Benning.

The 33,000-student system is expecting about 4,300 new students over the next two fiscal years after the U.S. Army relocates the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning.

At a work session Monday night, the board discussed authorizing the superintendent to ask Gov. Sonny Perdue and local legislators for an exemption from state budget cuts because of the district’s expected growth due to Base Realignment and Closure.

“In other words, keep us whole and don’t cut any more money out of our budget,” board member John Wells said.

The agenda item got chuckles from the audience and had several board members clamoring to voice their support for adding it to next week’s board agenda.

“We can’t have four or five motions or four or five seconds. We only need one,” Wells joked. The item will be voted on at Monday’s meeting in the board room of the old Bradley Library.

About 6,800 students are expected to move to the various school districts in the Chattahoochee Valley as a result of Fort Benning’s expected growth.

Former superintendent John Phillips, former deputy superintendent Robin Pennock and Chief Operations and Facilities officer Myles Caggins have already requested help with construction funding from the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Georgia Department of Education and federal representatives.

The system has also already dealt with state budget cuts. Administrators cut 2 percent, or about $3.7 million, from the budget this fiscal year at the request of the state. The governor has asked the district to find another 3 percent — about $5.4 million based on this year’s budget — to cut from its FY 2010 budget, which administrators will begin discussing over the coming months.

The board also held a meeting to elect new leaders and created a new subcommittee on Monday.

During a called board meeting before Monday’s work session, the board voted 7-2 vote to elect Philip Schley and James Walker as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Board members Cathy Williams, Norene Marvets, Brenda Storey, John Wells, Rob Varner, Schley and Walker voted for the motion; board members Naomi Buckner and Pat Hugley-Green voted against the motion.

Walker served as chairman of the board and Schley served as vice chair last year.

Buckner made a motion for Walker to continue serving as chair and for Schley to continue serving as vice chair. The motion was considered moot after Storey’s motion passed.

At the end of the work session, Schley asked Williams to chair a new committee to oversee efforts to pass a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

“Many, many decisions have to be made in how to present that to the public and how to get it passed,” he said.