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Finances tight in Henry County Schools

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The laces remain tight on finances in the Henry County School System, according to school officials, who are anticipating additional state funding cuts this school year.

"We expect an additional 2-percent reduction in state revenues going into the new calendar year," said Jeff Allie, Henry's assistant superintendent for financial services. "We budgeted $4.6 million in anticipation of ... [the] reduction."

The school system is nearly mid-way through its Fiscal Year 2011 budget, which is $284 million -- down from a $317 million budget a year ago.

"School system expenditures are where we expected they would be as of Nov. 30, ($125 million of the $284 million budget has been spent)," he said.

Most of what has already been spent, about $90 million, was spent on instruction, according to the district's latest financial report. The second largest amount, more than $11 million, was spent on maintenance and operations costs.

For the year, school officials have budgeted roughly $202 million for instruction, and nearly $28 million for maintenance and operations.

Allie, the assistant superintendent, noted that funding has increasingly become tight for the school system in recent years, due to annual state funding cuts, known as austerity reductions, and the effects of the recent economic downturn, which has caused both state and local revenues to decline.

School system records indicate annual state austerity reductions will have increased from an initial $2.2 million in 2003, to a projected $38.6 million in 2011.

"As of now," Allie said, "the district has lost $98 million in state revenue since austerity reductions began in 2003."

Having less this year in state and local revenues has forced school officials to make additional cost-cutting measures, explained Allie. The school district is implementing unpaid furlough days, which will span the course of the academic year. Allie said administrators are scheduled to take 10 furlough days, while teachers and most other school and central office staff members will take eight furlough days.

The use of furlough days, he added, will save the school system $1 million per furlough day. Additionally, the school system implemented a salary freeze for its employees, and an increase in class-size limits, by two students per class, which should decrease staffing needs.

"As indicated in recent news reports, Governor-elect [Nathan] Deal predicts more cuts to K-12 funding for 2011 and 2012," Allie said. "However, no specific information regarding additional cuts to K-12 education has been provided."