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BOE, BOC adopt preliminary budgets; Formal approvals set for July

By Diane Glidewell

dglidewell@myjpa.com

Triggering a number of public hearings, the Butts County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, on Monday, each adopted preliminary spending plans for the 2011 fiscal year.

But the Butts County Board of Education's proposed budget initially put board members at an impasse, with members first declining to vote, then voting the plan down before finally voting to move forward.

On Monday, Board of Education Chairman Ernest Battle called for a motion to adopt the preliminary $28.57 million spending plan and Vice Chairman John Morris made the motion, but there was no second, and the motion died.

Board Member Roland Lee said he did not object to discussing the budget but did object to the proposed millage increase.

School Superintendent Lynda White asked if a motion could be made to discuss the budget. Instead, Morris again made a motion to adopt the preliminary budget, and Lee seconded the motion. A vote was taken with Morris voting in favor of the preliminary budget and the other four members voting against it.

This year's budget proposal includes a number of cuts and a proposed millage increase.

Lee suggested the board save a mill for next year rather than raising taxes to the maximum 20 mills now. White said that the maximum taxes were needed now.

Board Member Clifford Marshall said he felt reducing the Henderson Middle School Graduation Coach and Learning Support Specialist (LSS) positions was a mistake. White said the preliminary budget should have read to reduce the middle school LSS or Math Coach position. She said officials would work with Henderson Principal Jay Homan on that decision.

Battle instructed the BOE to table discussion of the preliminary budget until a meeting at 7 p.m., the following day, Tuesday, June 8, and after conducting other business, the board moved into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

On Tuesday, Donna Owens, administrative assistant to White, said the board reconvened later and passed the preliminary budget by a 3-2 vote. Battle, Morris and Marshall voted in favor of the preliminary budget, and Board Member Linda Godin -- who had asked members to reconsider a four-day week and retirement incentives -- and Lee voted against it. The meeting on Tuesday was canceled.

Items listed in the preliminary budget included: Raise the millage to 20 mills--$1,200,000; furlough days (12 days to 15 days)--$1,057,379; reduce media parapros--$95,719; reduce custodians--$76,761; k-12 bus routes--$86,282; reduce HMS graduation coach--$79,430; reduce HMS LSS--$84,200; reduce JHS academic coach--$76,905; reduce school allotments--$50,000; loss of teacher slot at JHS--$86,592; loss of kindergarten slot at Stark Elementary--$67,925.

Budget hearings are expected to be scheduled for June 24, at 10:30 a.m., and 6:30 p.m., and July 1, at 6 p.m. A meeting to adopt the budget is expected to be scheduled for 7 p.m., on July 1. The meetings would be held at the central office, at 181 North Mulberry Street, Jackson.

There was decidedly more accord among the Butts County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

The county's proposed $18.62 million budget -- down from more than $19 million for this year -- calls for the elimination of paid holidays for the county's 261 employees and one furlough day. The plan saves the county roughly $300,000 in salary expenses. The preliminary budget was unanimously approved.

County Administrator Alan E. White told commissioners on Monday that the proposed budget also calls for freezing the county's contribution toward employees' health benefits and trims other expenses by roughly $600,000. He said about $574,000 from reserve funds would be used to balance the budget. "We just can't afford to, I think, cut our employees any further," Alan White said.

The county commission set a budget hearing for June 24, at 7 p.m., at the Butts County Administration Building at 625 West Third Street in Jackson. The commission is expected to formally adopt the budget during a meeting July 1 at 7 p.m., and later set the millage rate for county taxes, which is not expected to change. July 1 at 7:30 p.m., the commission is expected to adopt the overall millage rate.

Michael Davis contributed to this article.