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BOE to make $85.2 million in budget cuts

The Clayton County Board of Education approved a budget-cutting plan on Monday that Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley promised would save the district $85.2 million by the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

Heatley's plan included 83 recommendations for cutting expenses in the district. Those recommendations included cutting several personnel positions; cutting the school year by five days; getting rid of summer school programs for elementary and middle school students, and eliminating transportation to school-choice and charter-school sites.

Without the cuts, Heatley told school board members the district would have an expected deficit of $103.5 million by July 2012. He said the expected deficit is the result of nationwide economic struggles that have led to state funding cuts, and local property tax income that is 45 percent less than district officials had expected.

"We cannot continue to do everything we do right now," Heatley said. "We cannot offer everything we offer now. We are trying to be as creative as we can to deal with this issue."

The school board voted 5-1 to give Heatley permission to move forward with his recommendations. School board member Jessie Goree cast the dissenting vote. Board members Charlton Bivins and Trinia Garrett were not present at the meeting, and board member Wanda Smith left during Heatley's presentation.

"All we've done is approving him going forward with his plan," school board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said. "There are no definites at this time in what he does. He has to go back and do his homework to decide which positions need to be cut."

According to a PowerPoint presentation on Heatley's recommendations, without making any cuts, the district will enter fiscal year 2011 with a surplus of $14.57 million. But the budget for that year would include $401.49 million in expenditures, with revenues of just $346.3 million. That would mean the district would end the next fiscal year with a deficit of $40.8 million.

Also, without any budget cuts, the district would have expenditures of $397.41 million in fiscal year 2012, with revenues of only $335.3 million. That would result in the projected deficit of $103.5 million in July 2012.

Heatley did not say how those budgets would look with the cuts included in them, but even by making these cuts, he said the district would still have an $18.3 million budget deficit at the end of fiscal year 2012. "We will continue to look for ways to make up for that $18.3 million," he said.

A proposed fiscal year 2011 budget will be presented to the school board next month, Heatley said.

The superintendent's recommendations ranged from small steps, like conserving energy and water to cut utility expenses by 15 percent, to more drastic steps, such as personnel cuts that include more than 200 paraprofessional positions, several district-level academic coordinators, and three positions in Heatley's cabinet.

Some of Heatley's recommendations include:

• Ending the school year one week early, for a projected annual savings of $5.1 million.

• Eliminating 187 kindergarten paraprofessional positions in elementary schools, for an estimated annual savings of $4.52 million.

• Eliminating transportation to and from school-choice sites, such as the Unidos Dual Language Charter School, the district's fine arts magnet school, the alternative school, and the various programs housed in the Eula Ponds Perry Center for Learning. This would give the district an anticipated annual savings of $1.8 million.

• Eliminating part-time employee benefits, for an estimated annual savings of $1.5 million.

• Eliminating 52 media paraprofessional positions across all school levels, for a projected annual savings of $1.3 million.

• Eliminating transportation for remediation programs, and summer school, for an anticipated annual savings of $1.24 million.

• Eliminating summer school and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) remediation for elementary and middle school students, for an estimated annual savings of $1.2 million.

• Getting rid of 10 district-level academic coordinators, for a projected annual savings of $929,483.

• Consolidating the International Baccalaureate programs at Lovejoy and North Clayton high schools, for an estimated annual savings of $850,000.

• Reducing Heatley's cabinet by three positions, for an anticipated annual savings of $393,369.

Heatley's recommendations also include the creation of some new positions, including 18 new kindergarten-teacher positions (at an anticipated annual cost of $1.14 million), and 23 in-school suspension paraprofessionals (at an estimated annual cost of $443,053).

"This will not be a people-driven district, this will be a performance-driven district," Heatley said. "It's not about Eddie, or anybody else. It's about whether the district can take care of the little people."

Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, said he is concerned about what the proposed elimination of the kindergarten paraprofessional positions would mean for kindergarten teachers.

"If they keep the kindergarten class sizes to 20 students and under, without the paraprofessionals, it may not be so bad," Chapman said. "But, if they have 25 or 30 kids in a kindergarten class, that would be too much for the teachers to handle."

Heatley said the PowerPoint slides of his presentation will be posted on the school system's web site on Wednesday afternoon.

On the net:

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