Muscogee teachers face five more furlough days

Teachers in the Muscogee County School District could miss five days of pay again this coming school year if the budget for fiscal year 2013, presented at the school board meeting on Monday night, is passed June 18.

The tentative budget was unanimously accepted by the board, but changes are expected and more discussion will be held before the final vote. The budget goes into effect July 1.

The district calls the furlough days “work schedule adjustment days.”

The tentative 2013 budget is $279,879,738, about $6 million more than the current budget.

The board was told that in order to balance the budget, another $817,549 must still be cut.

One way Superintendent Susan Andrews hopes to meet budget is by finding some vacant positions that can stay unfilled. She said all vacant positions are being evaluated.

Board member John Wells was upset about the five furlough days.

“I would rather not balance the budget on the backs of the employees,” he said.

Wells said the school district needs to take a “hard look at items that are not absolutely necessary.”

Board member Naomi Buckner agreed. “We should look at something else we can cut out,” she said.

Andrews said possibilities included magnets and International Baccalaureate programs, as well as the Academic Success Center, but that cutting those things wouldn’t save enough money.

She added that positions such as assistant principals or first-grade paraprofessionals could be cut, though saving jobs has always been a high priority for her, she said.

“We have cut and cut and cut,” Andrews said. “It has been a grievous process. We are still digging.”

She said budgets with fewer furlough days were considered but did not work.

Wells suggested finding some outside help to look at the budget to get a different viewpoint.

Sharon Adams, the school district’s chief financial officer, told the board that Georgia will spend $7.1 billion for K-12 education in 2013, which is 18 percent less than the original 2009 budget of $8.2 billion.

Board chair Cathy Williams said the school district has suffered $119 million in cuts from the state over 11 years.

Adjusted for inflation, Adams said, state spending per student for K-12 will be at its lowest level in more than a decade.

One of the big cuts will be in pupil transportation funding. In 2010, the state provided 23 percent of the cost, but in 2013, that number will be only 13 percent.

While the cost of fuel keeps going up, there will also be no state funding for bus replacement.

In her report, Adams said aging buildings require additional maintenance and the average age of school buildings in the district is 43 years. The average age of support buildings is 64 years.

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