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School system tightens budget
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Forsyth County News

Fewer trips, supplies and employees are among the measures the Forsyth County school system is taking in the wake of a deepening budget shortfall.

Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans announced the budget cuts, which took effect immediately, during a Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

They include a hiring freeze of positions that are not state or federally mandated, restricted travel for employees and reduced allotments of supplies and materials for staff.

“First of all, as part of this plan, and if this continues, no one in Forsyth County Schools would lose their job,” he said.

Evans also said that all actions being recommended and implemented in response to the economic slump will be watched to "ensure that what happens in the classroom doesn’t do anything but improve.”

The board approved a $270 million budget in June with a projected $10 million shortfall. A combination of millage rate increases and spending cuts was intended to cover the spending gap.

According to school system figures, about 72 percent of the system’s budget pays for instructional costs. About 9 percent goes toward maintenance and about 4 percent goes toward transportation. The remaining 15 percent is distributed among a variety of system expenses.

Evans said the school system receives about half of its funding from state revenue and the other half from local revenue.

He said the cuts are a result of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s recent budget reductions, which will have an impact on the school system’s fiscal year 2009 budget.

For example, Perdue recently announced an across the board 2 percent reduction in earned Quality Basic Education Act funds. That’s about $2.3 million Forsyth County Schools may not see.

In addition, the school system also has about 750 fewer students enrolled than projected and budgeted for in the midterm budget.

That adjustment could mean a reduction of about $4 million in state funding.

Spending cuts also include field trips and athletic expenditures for travel. Field trips have not been restricted, Evans said, “But we are certainly asking for greater discretion to be exercised.”

Evans explained that, according to a plan submitted by Forsyth County Schools Athletics Director Todd Shirley, athletic travel can be cut by 15 percent “yet still be able to participate in all the activities that we participate in."

"In some cases this means consolidating buses," he said. "In some cases it means not planning as many perhaps JV or sublevel games. These are responses being used by districts all across Georgia so … we’ve learned this from everybody else quite frankly.”