"As for personnel reductions, we are not expecting to have to do any reduction in force," Cowart said.
Last month, the board asked the system administration to provide them a list of adjustment possibilities to the budget so the members could see what would have to potentially be cut to balance the budget.
Cowart provided the board a list of $10.5 million of potential cuts for them to consider.
Included in the list of 17 possible adjustments were moving the millage rate to 20 mills, adding more across-the-board workday reductions, cutting one assistant principal position and reducing by seven school resource officer positions.
Board member Chris Gammon stressed that the adjustment possibilities are just that: "These are things that may be cut, not things that will be cut," he said.
"This is just a starting point," Cowart said. "And we've taken a lot of steps since our last meeting."
Last year, the board faced a $7.9 million shortfall, with $5.6 million worth of programs being cut, and $2.3 million coming from the system's fund equity reserves to balance the budget.
Most notably, the board had to close the Open Campus High School last May to make ends meet.
This year, the deficit will probably improve, but not as much as board members had hoped.
The board is currently looking at an early estimate of a deficit somewhere between $5 million and $6.5 million.
The "best guess" that Cowart provided the board members was a shortfall of $5.2 million.
When former Chief Financial Officer Greg Denney spoke to board members last month about the budget, he predicted a fund equity of about $11.5 million at budget crunch time. Cowart said that number is looking better now.
"It's looking significantly better than projected," Cowart said. "We're looking at $13.7 million in there potentially. That's a good, good thing, and that's a number we're going to keep track of."
The system will face steep expenditures because of a cut in the equalization grant funds from the state, coupled with the rising cost of health insurance for classified employees (expected to add more than $900,000 to the expenses).
Cowart said the budget picture will become clearer as the months go by, but that state revenues will most likely not be known until the first of May.
Also during the meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Support Services David Goldberg shared some improvements that will be made to Roopville Elementary to enhance the school's safety.
"We were approached by Sheriff [Terry] Langley, Major Craig Dodson and [EMA Director] Tim Padgett shortly after the tragedy up in Connecticut," Goldberg said. "Their concern was the response time that they would be able to get to our schools."
Goldberg said the group identified RES as not only being one of the smallest schools but also the farthest way from the sheriff's office.
Therefore, Goldberg said, Carroll County Sheriff's Office offered to pay for some security improvements at RES that will cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
The assistant superintendent said he was reticent to give away too much about the improvements, for "obvious reasons" — not wanting to divulge too much about the plan, for instance where students will be evacuated to, he said.
Goldberg did share with the board, however, that the improvements include a series of extra doors in the school that can be activated by a panic button that will shut and lock every door.
The fire marshal had signed off on the idea, Goldberg said, and was even encouraging other schools in the area to do the same.
"The sheriff's office is really pushing this — they're hoping to have this in before the end of the year so they can get the teachers trained on it," Goldbert said.
As for systemwide school safety, Goldberg said one thing every parent can do that would help get the word out with more swiftness and accuracy in case of emergency is to ensure that the contact information a school has on file is correct.
Also during Monday's work session:
• The board heard from representatives of two energy and facility management companies, considering which company to enter into a performance contract with.
Representatives from ABM and Georgia Power spoke on the amount of money that the school system would save if it entered into the contract with them, hiring them to audit and replace the system's energy appliances, including lighting and water.
Goldberg said the board will either choose between the companies or choose not to enter into a contract with either of them during Thursday's regular board meeting.
• Goldberg shared the six projects for which he will be bringing bids to the board during the March meeting.
The six projects, if approved, will make improvements at Bay Springs Middle (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), Roopville Elementary (kitchen, cafeteria and safety), Whitesburg Elementary (kitchen), Mt. Zion Elementary (kitchen), Temple Elementary (gym, parking lot and electrical work) and Glanton-Hindsman Elementary (gym, music and connector halls).
Goldberg also shared with the board that he had just heard back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the system has been awarded a grant that will allow them to build a saferoom at Villa Rica Elementary School.
The assistant superintendent said the room will cost between $600,000 and $800,000 to construct, and will take up 7,000 square feet.
Goldberg said the room will be able to hold about 1,000 people during an emergency, and that Carroll County Schools would be the first school system in Georgia to have such a saferoom.