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BOE to get public input on budget

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will offer local residents an opportunity to sound off on the school system's plans to address a $16 million state funding cut, for the upcoming school year.

The school board will hold two public hearings on Monday, one at 11:30 a.m., and another at 6 p.m., to gather community input on the proposed $574.7 million spending plan. Both public hearings will be held at the school system's administration complex, located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

The school board previously adopted the budget on a tentative basis, but state law requires the school system to hold public hearings before the board gives its final seal of approval to the plan. The school board is scheduled to vote on final adoption of the budget on June 15.

School board Vice-Chairperson Ophelia Burroughs said she feels it is important for community members to participate in the hearings, so the board can hear public opinion and take suggestions from residents into consideration, before final adoption of the budget.

"If you don't get public input, it can get you in trouble later on," Burroughs said. "It's the right thing to do."

Copies of the district's fiscal year 2010 budget went on display Thursday at the school system's central office, the Clayton County Library System's headquarters branch, at 865 Battle Creek Road, Jonesboro, and on the district's web site.

The school system's general fund, which is where tax dollars go and money for employee salaries comes from, is scheduled to shrink by $15.9 million, according to the budget. According to the spending plan, the general fund will be $404.8 million, or 70 percent, of the budget. Three-quarters of the general fund is spent on direct instruction, media services, and pupil services, according to the budget.

Part of the reduction in costs comes in the form of a 1.5 percent salary reduction, and a 10-day reduction in the work calendars for 240-day employees, such as central office staff and administrators, and administrators in each school, according to budget documents. The proposed budget shows that move will save the district approximately $390,000.

The budget also shows district officials anticipate a savings of approximately $981,000 by reducing overtime for custodians, from 10 hours per week, to five hours per week.

Three other funds in the budget are the special projects fund ($52.1 million), the capital projects fund ($87.1 million) and enterprise fund ($30.6 million). The enterprise fund is made up solely of the school system's school nutrition program.

A fifth fund, the fiduciary fund, shows no expenditures because the school system recently changed its dental and medical insurance plans to be taken out of the employees salaries. That was the only expense in this fund in the past.

District officials are grappling with the loss of more than 3,000 students in the last year, as well as a struggling economy, and an anticipated loss of $5 million in tax revenue from car rental agencies at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The agencies are scheduled to move to a new facility in Fulton County later this year.

District officials have repeatedly said the loss of students, which they attribute to the system's recent accreditation woes, is going to cause a significant drop in state funding as the Georgia Department of Education allocates money to local school systems for the upcoming school year.

"This caused the system's state QBE [Quality Basic Education] funding to decrease by approximately $16 million," according to the system's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget.

The school system is also proposing to raise the millage rate to the maximum 20 mills allowed under state law. A mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of taxable value.

On May 26, school system Budgets and Grants Director Ramona Thurman said the board will be asked to raise the millage rate to maintain the same level of tax revenue from this year.

The school system's current millage rate is 19.836 mills. The board will vote on tentative adoption of the millage rate at its June 15 meeting, with final adoption scheduled to take place in July.

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On the net:

Clayton County Public Schools: http://www.clayton.k12.ga.us/