The school system, suffering from state budget cuts, is looking at slashing 159 teaching and staff jobs under its proposed fiscal year 2010 budget. But following a lengthy meeting on Thursday, board members requested the system refigure the budget with the current class-size maximums and put an art teacher in every elementary school, preserving at least 49 teaching jobs. This year only eight elementary schools have art teachers and the art programs were going to be removed from those schools under Thursday’s proposed budget.
Even with a system-wide 2 percent pay reduction, the move would leave Carroll County Schools with a budget deficit of nearly $1.6 million under current revenue estimates.
The current budget projections do not include a firm revenue allotment from the state or actual tax revenue figures since those are not yet available. The budget also doesn’t include the money included for education in the stimulus package recently passed by Congress. The budget picture could change dramatically depending on the actual numbers, Chief Financial Officer Greg Denney told the board members.
The school system was expecting to hear whether some of the federal regulations about the use of federal education funds would be relaxed with the stimulus money. The current regulations require that the money not be used to replace other funding and only be used to fund above and beyond what the schools already had. For instance, if the school system already has 900 state-funded teachers, it can only use the money to fund additional teachers. So, if the system loses state funding and has to lay off 20 teachers, it can’t hire them back with federal funds under the current regulations.
The board members also discussed the addition of KidsPeace in Bowdon to the system. The residential school for students with behavioral and mental health needs opened in 2004 under a state charter after the board denied its request for a local charter. Since it opened, state laws have changed and KidsPeace is no longer eligible to be a charter school.
The students come from all over the state, but because the school is a residential school funded by Department of Human Resources and Department of Juvenile Justice the students are considered residents of the county. That puts it under the jurisdiction of the Carroll County School System. At this time, the system is not sure what that means, except that it is going to cost money.
The teacher s at KidsPeace are certified, but not highly qualified, said Assistant Superintendent Kathy Rogers. In addition, the textbooks the school uses are not compatible with the Georgia Performance Standards curriculum the state requires, so the system will have to pay to replace them, she said.
The students at the residential school are wards of the state and all are eligible for free and reduced lunches, the highest percentage school in the district, which gives them first crack at their share of any Title 1 money the system gets. The system will not be awarded more Title 1 money because it has taken over another school, so it means one more school to share the money.
Board member Bart Cater asked if the system could shut the school down.
“We’ve got to make a decision based on our Carroll County students, you know, and the taxpayers that are paying for their children to be educated,” Cater said. “I know that would cost jobs in the Bowdon area and that kind of thing, but we have a responsibility to the children and the taxpayers of Carroll County.”
But Superintendent John Zauner is not sure if the system has that ability.
“I don’t know if right now we have a choice about it, but I think over time we might,” Zauner said.
Board member Dorothy Burton-Callaway asked how the budget cuts would affect the new Temple Elementary School. Zauner said he would not recommend opening the new school next year. The construction is scheduled to be finished in December, but the cost of opening the school would be difficult under the expected budget restrictions. The system should plan on opening the school in the fall of 2010, he said.