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Public invited to comment on school budget

By Greg Gelpi

The public will get its first opportunity to voice opinions on the Clayton County school budget during a public hearing tonight.

The tentative fiscal year 2006 budget as approved by the Clayton County Board of Education would pass on the 2 percent pay raise approved by the Georgia General Assembly for teachers, as well as awarding the 2 percent raise to all other school system employees. The tentative budget would not raise taxes.

The pay raise is one part of the option approved by the board of the five options that the board considered.

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam and the school board's citizens advisory committee recommended the option tentatively adopted by the board.

Significant expenses in all five options include a $500,00 compensation study, $159,000 for a chief financial officer, $2.7 million for a state-mandated Georgia Performance Standards roll-out, $750,000 to establish a research and evaluation department, $2.3 million for the county's first charter school and $300,000 for additional school security.

All of the options considered call for saving the school system $4.3 million by cutting the instructional technology specialist position at each of the county's 55 schools.

The instructional technology specialists would be given the option of taking positions as classroom teachers.

Other significant savings in all five options include more than $270,000 by eliminating six central office secretaries, about $213,000 by eliminating two coordinators in Teaching and Learning, $5 million by more effectively using Title VIB funds and $2.1 million by using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to cover laptop lease payments.

Other positions that would be cut by all five options are a custodian, two paraprofessionals in maintenance, a part-time position in Teaching and Learning and one training specialist.

Many of the positions offered up for elimination are currently vacant or soon to be vacated by retirements.

The short-term goal is a balanced budget, Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald said. The long-term goal is to set aside $28 million in reserves.

The budget process comes in the wake of the school system suffering a combined $41.8 million in state funding cuts from the past five years.

The public hearing will be at 7 p.m. in the Administrative Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.

A second public hearing is set for 7 p.m. May 23, and the final budget is tentatively slated to be adopted in June.