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Cost-saving moves pay off for district
More cuts likely in 2009-10 year
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Forsyth County News

Some voluntary belt-tightening has softened the impact of the state budget crunch on the Forsyth County school system, though the district is bracing for additional cuts in the 2009-10 school year.

In early August, Superintendent Buster Evans met with the system's principals, asking that each school do its best to shave about 2 to 3 percent from expenses.  

"We haven't listed a mandatory cutback, but we asked our principals to use some good common sense," Evans said. "They have gone above and beyond.

"Our folks are doing this on a voluntary basis, and I'd a lot rather do something on a volunteer basis than a mandatory force."

With the current $250 million budget, the savings could be as much as $7.5 million.

"It's doable," Evans said. "If we can continue to spend the rest of the year and run underneath our numbers as far as personnel cost, it's a very reachable number for us, so I'm very optimistic."

So far, the system's expenditures are just under budget, in part because "fuel prices are down underneath what we have budgeted for," Evans said.

About 89 percent of the school system's budget goes toward personnel salaries and benefits. Since there are no staff reductions this year, there is only so much wiggle room.

Cost-cutting moves include a reduction in staff travel and funding for professional learning, as well as combining activities that require transportation.

With travel reduced, the cost of substitute teachers also has fallen.

Overall, board member Ann Crow said, "Everybody is making an effort to save money."

"Whether it's turning off lights in the classroom or using their supplies and materials wisely, everybody is conscious to do things that will help save money."

Teachers also are being asked to cut back on field trips wherever possible. Evans said the trips can drain funding for transportation and personnel costs, not to mention they're an expense to parents.

"A lot of parents in our community have felt the economic impact," he said. "And so in many respects, I'm hearing from several parents saying, 'We appreciate your understanding of that.'"

The school system won't know the total impact of next year's state reductions until the legislature passes the budget.

While cuts are certain, Gov. Sonny Perdue told superintendents in October that he would allow more funding flexibility and innovative solutions in budget management through June 2010.

Evans said he is optimistic the local district can avoid personnel layoffs, though that's a goal, not a promise.

"People see what's happening in corporate world and I think they recognize that with all that's going on around us, they can't expect for business to be the same as usual," he said. "They have been extremely gracious.

"We realize the better we do this year, the easier it's going to be to deal with next year."