Perdue’s budget cuts to hit BOE for a $349,000 loss
By Jessica Blomquist
The Morgan County Board of Education might find itself with a tighter budget in the next year as Governor Sonny Perdue has suggested several budget cuts which will effect K-12 schools in Georgia.
Purdue has requested that each state agency submit a budget with three recommended reductions for FY 2009: 6 percent, 8 percent and 10 percent cuts. These agencies include the Department of Labor, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Education. Each of these state agencies will face at least a 6 percent cut.
There are two exceptions to this recommendation for state agencies, including K-12 schools and Medicaid. Medicaid will only suffer a 5 percent cut while Purdue is recommending a 2 percent cut for K-12 schools.
“It’s very helpful to understand he’s not asking us to decrease the Morgan County budget by 2 percent,” said Superintendent of Morgan County Schools Dr. Stan DeJarnett. “They’re going to cut funding by 2 percent. We have to absorb the reduction in state funding.”
The 2 percent cut in funding from the state amounts to a loss of $349,000 for Morgan County, according to DeJarnett. That comes to a total of $157 million to be cut from the state K-12 budget.
Because the budget and millage rate have already been set for FY 2009, DeJarnett said there is little they can do to increase revenue.
“We’re going to have to look for ways to cut our expenditures,” he said.
Ninety percent of Morgan County’s budget is spent on salaries of teachers and staff at the schools. And Perdue said the new 2.5 percent raise for teachers will also not be touched.
“We’re just going to have to cut it out of operations,” said DeJarnett. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t affect the classroom.”
Another recommendation from Perdue was the recent freeze on the Homeowners’ Tax Relief Grant Program, a state reimbursement program that gives a credit to local homeowners and saves them money on their tax bill.
This could save the state a potential $428 million, but cost the school board $429,000.
To eliminate the program completely would have to be voted on by the General Assembly in January or at a special called session.
“If there’s no special called session, we’re not going to know until January at the earliest what’s going to happen with the Homeowners’ Tax Relief Program,” DeJarnett said. “And this close to an election, I don’t think anyone wants to have a special session right now.”
Currently, the school board is just trying to prepare should they lose that funding.
“There’s a lot of things we can do to save a little here and there,” said DeJarnett who encourages the schools to conserve energy and supplies. “It’s time for us to be good stewards of our resources.”
As a last resort, the school board also has a reserve that they can dip into as needed. But even without the budget cuts, the current FY 2009 budget requires the school board to use over $1.5 million out of the reserves. If the Homeowners’ Tax Relief Program is eliminated along with the 2 percent decrease in funding, DeJarnett estimates the school board may need to use approximately $2.3 million in reserves.
“That’s a heavy hit for our reserve,” said DeJarnett. “We can’t do that two years in a row.”
Overall though, DeJarnett hopes to make decisions concerning the lack of funding that will have the least amount of impact on students.
“We want to make sure it doesn’t impact the quality of education our kids get here,” said DeJarnett. “We just need to conserve and be proactive.”