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School board takes early look at budget
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Forsyth County News
Staff reductions are not among the options the Forsyth County school system is considering to trim nearly $11.5 million from a projected $13.5 million budget shortfall.

The system is starting to put together the pieces for the fiscal year 2011 budget, which must be approved by June 31.

The projected budget is expected to be about $255 million. But without a final state budget or a complete county tax digest, Dan Jones, school system chief financial officer, said the numbers are preliminary.

To ease any fears of layoffs or major changes, however, the Forsyth County Board of Education spent about an hour Thursday going through some proposed money-saving measures.

“As we began to implement the fiscal year 2009 budget, it became more and more apparent that we were entering a challenging time,” said Superintendent Buster Evans.

“We began to make, what I believe, were fairly considerable proactive decisions, hopefully positioning us so that we would not be in a situation where we, down the road, would have to make some drastic, drastic measures.”

Among the options reviewed Thursday, removing elementary foreign language education would save the system about $1.57 million.

Elementary students receive less than one hour of Spanish a week.

Forsyth receives no state funds toward its elementary foreign language program, and is one of the few districts in Georgia offering Spanish at that level.

Other ideas were to reduce the use and pay of substitute teachers, lower contribution to employee benefits and cut school and central office positions.

The budget also includes three furlough days and no step, or experience level, pay increases for teachers.

Altogether, the proposed adjustments would make up for most of the shortfall.

Jones said the remaining deficit of about $2 million could work itself out if the finance department’s estimates on state funding were too conservative.

The possible cuts to school employees, a potential savings of about $4.26 million, would mostly likely be realized by not replacing retirees.

With other nearby school systems considering teacher cuts in the hundreds, Evans said he was “pleased to say that’s not what we’re looking at.”

“To say that no one will not have a job, I can’t say that,” Evans said. “It would be my heart and be my desire ... that we would be able to say that anybody that brings value to our system ... would have ... employment.”