Vote expected on school budget reduction plan

By Curt Yeomans


The Clayton County Board of Education is expected to vote on revisions to Clayton Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley's budget reduction proposal, when the school board holds its monthly business meeting on Tuesday, according to Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

In mid-March, Heatley presented his most recent revised budget-cutting plan, which would reduce spending by $84.07 million by July 2012, to members of the school board. If approved, the school board members would, among many things, be agreeing to cut their own salaries by more than four percent, while also cutting several positions and services throughout the district.

The school board's meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 13 at 6 p.m., at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, which is located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro. The superintendent's budget reduction proposal has been posted on the school system's web site.

"We're interested in our [school board] salary cuts, and the positions that will be cut, and making sure everything will be in the best interests of the district," Anderson said.

The latest revisions to Heatley's spending reduction proposal are part of an ongoing process of getting a proposed fiscal year 2011 budget ready for school board members to vote on. No date has been announced yet for when the school board will receive the proposed budget.

Heatley, and school system Director of Budgets and Grants Ramona Thurman, could not be reached for comment before school system offices closed for spring break on April 2.

The largest cuts Heatley is proposing would come from changes in services, where the superintendent is recommending saving $13.8 million a year through various actions, including reducing the school year by five days; eliminating elementary summer school and middle school Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) remediation; reducing utility costs by 15 percent through conservation, and eliminating transportation for summer school, remediation and school choice.

Other cuts would come from school-level savings ($8.2 million per year), the teaching and learning division ($4.9 million), the human resources division ($3.08 million), the operations division ($3.02 million), the superintendent, his cabinet and the school board ($681,417), and the business services division ($148,030).

Some of the proposed cuts in those areas come in the form of cutting three cabinet positions; reducing the salaries of school board members; eliminating 52 media paraprofessionals; eliminating 166 school-based instructional coaches, and 30 school improvement specialist positions; eliminating 37 registered and licensed practical nurses; cutting several clerical and administrative assistant positions across the district; discontinuing the contract for the school board's parliamentarian; reducing pay for substitute teachers by 6 percent, and reducing the work year for 230-day employees by 10 days.

The school board will have to take two votes on a proposed budget, to accommodate for public inspection and comment. Once the school board votes a first time to approve the budget, it will have to be made available for public inspection, and public comment hearings will have to be scheduled. Then, the school board will vote a second and final time on approving the budget.

It is a process that has generally taken a month to complete, in previous years.

Other items on the school board's agenda include a vote on a resolution to begin phasing out Riverdale Elementary School; to approve the district's fiscal year 2009 audit, and comprehensive annual financial report; to approve a resolution which states the district has paid off the entire $1.67 million cost of building Charles R. Drew High School, and to approve requests for State Board of Education waivers for class sizes, instructional extensions and minimum classroom expenditures.