2008-03-20 / Front Page

Board of Education starts early to make budget cuts for expected 2009 shortfall

By KIP BURKE news editor

Anticipating that tax revenues for the upcoming year may fall short of budget requirements, the Wilkes County Board of Education approved cuts in the 2009 budget at Monday night's regular meeting.

Faced with a declining student population and state-mandated raises and benefits,Chairman Ricky Callaway said, and concerned about the size of the upcoming tax digest, the board voted to cut some $200,000 from the 2009 budget. The personnel cuts include elimination of a literacy coach position at the elementary school, elimination of one ESOL position, elimination of one middle school parapro position, and elimination of one bus attendant position.

Cuts would also eliminate $6,000 in annual funding to the Mary Willis Library, and some $27,000 for paying the fuel costs and driver salaries for activity trips.

Board members had met with school administrators twice last week. "The school personnel, and board members, have worked very hard trying to find places in the budget where we could cut," Callaway said. "We've got a great school system, and this board is trying not to destroy what we've built over the years due to a lack of funding."

Even with the cuts, Callaway said, the budget for next year will be some $300,000 higher than this year just to maintain the level of services, possibly requiring the addition of two mills to the tax burden, depending on the tax digest.

Construction of the new school complex does not affect the budget directly, he said, since the construction is paid from SPLOST sales tax revenues, not property taxes. Property taxes fund the school system's annual operating budget, and must be raised to meet that budget.

Citing the statewide School Board Appreciation Week, Superintendent Joyce Williams passed out certificatesof appreciation to Callaway and board members Kay Finnell, Bob Guin, Kelly Powell, and Steven Albertson. "Board members are the unsung heroes of the school system," she said. "You are doing a super job and we are proud of you."

The board again considered renewal or extension of the school system's copier contract. The present service provider offered three options for the board to meet their goal of timing the new contract to the opening of the new school contract. Board members agreed that the contract options needed further study and tabled further action.

In the construction update, Williams said that engineering firm Stevenson and Palmer is reviewing the bids for the sewer lift station and would need to meet with the board before making a recommendation to the Washington City Council for approval. The board set a called meeting for Tuesday, March 25.

The Georgia DOT is requesting another study, Williams said, to see if the new school warrants a full traffic light and a cut through of the median on Highway 17.

In other action, the board approved an out-of-state trip request by Coach Brian Usry for athletes to attend an event at Clemson University.

The board also passed a resolution to ask for a waiver to allow advanced eighth-grade math students to get high school credit for taking Algebra I in the eighth grade, as they had in the past.

In executive session, the board approved the hiring of Coach Russell Morgan as Athletic Director, approved the hiring of two new teachers for Washington-Wilkes Primary School - Sherry DuBois and Amanda Hill, approved the list of certified contract staff positions, and approved fivesubstitutes.

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