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School closings on the table for Fayette School Board

Money is tight, and school enrollment is stagnant or falling. So the Fayette County Board of Education met Aug. 1 to talk about what to do about a shortfall of $9-10 million at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year next July.

Among the ideas to increase revenues: Let out-of-county students pay tuition to attend Fayette schools, plus aggressively rent out school facilities after-hours to churches, civic and other groups.

To cut expenses, the board heard ideas about mothballing up to two elementary schools and redistricting the remaining schools’ attendance zones, always a hotly controversial step.

The board also proposed an online survey to determine the community’s views on closing one or two elementary schools and shortening the school year.

The stage for the meeting was set by the financial situation in which the Fayette County School System is currently positioned. For the Fayette County BoE the 2012-2013 school year is directly tied to the current year that began July 1.

The school board in June used approximately $16 million of the estimated $25 million fund balance as of June 30 to adopt the $186.66 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year that began in July. Revenues this year are estimated at $170.2 million, leaving an estimated fund balance on June 30, 2012 of approximately $8.6 million.

So unless revenues show a marked increase or expenditures between now and next June 30 are trimmed substantially the board will potentially be faced with coming up millions of dollars short and being unable to balance the budget for next year.

That is the situation and that is why, following a previous instruction by the board to begin the series of meetings, Superintendent Jeff Bearden noted that the goal, likely with a combination of added revenues and lowered expenses, is to come up with $9-10 million that would enable the board to have the resources to adopt a balanced budget next June.

In the discussion Monday night the board began preparing for next year by hearing a number of ideas that could accomplish the fiscal goal. All were clearly stated as possibilities and all will require further discussion. And all were tempered with the understanding that other variables might be considered as the process unfolds.

Among the possibilities for enhancing revenue were charging tuition to out-of-county students qualified to attend Fayette schools and engaging a more aggressive stance in renting school system facilities.

The discussion noted that the tuition amount charged to parents of out-of-county students, based on the equivalent of the local property tax share, would have to be determined. The portion of funding through state dollars would also come to the school system, though likely not totally within the specific 2012-2013 school year since there is lag time built into the way enrollment is calculated by the state and includes a portion of two school years.

If approved, the school system would have to determine the eligibility requirements for out-of-county students. It was also clear that, if approved, those students would not be able to attend Fayette schools that are at capacity.

Pertaining to increased revenue from facility rentals, Community School Director Ed Steil said drivers education, rental by colleges and the numerous camps held on school property generate substantial funds, adding that drivers education had seen a three-year downturn but had picked up substantially over the summer.

As for decreasing costs, the initial topics discussed included the possibility of closing one or two elementary schools and using Rivers Elementary as a K-5 school, reducing the number of staff through attrition if enrollment continues to decline and reducing the number of days in the school year to save on utility costs.

Bearden said closing two elementary schools and using Rivers Elementary, aside from the resulting redistricting that would be required, would save approximately $800,000 annually in utility costs.

Bearden suggested, and the board agreed, that the school system hire a demographer from the University of Georgia at a cost of $6,000 to provide a 10-year systemwide forecast of enrollment and potential enrollment zones. The demographer should have the work completed in the fall.

Citing an example of savings from staff cuts if enrollment continues to fall, Bearden said reducing staff by 50 positions across the board would save approximately $3.2 million.

On the suggestion pertaining to saving money by shortening the school year, Bearden said there are two potential methods of approach. One of those would have a Labor Day to Memorial Day schedule with a longer school day of perhaps 45 minutes while the other involved maintaining the same calendar that is currently employed and reducing the number of school days per week from five to four.

Aside from costs on utility expenses, personnel such as food service staff, bus drivers and parapros would be affected, Bearden said.

The board agreed that a survey would be devised and posted on the school system‘s website to obtain feedback on the ideas of closing schools and reducing the number of school days per year. The survey is expected to be presented to the school board for review and possible approval at the Aug. 15 meeting.

Also at the meeting, board member Marion Key noted that the stated items, even if eventually approved, would fall substantially short of the $9-10 million goal.

And board member Janet Smola echoed the sentiments of others at previous meetings saying that pay cuts should only be used as a measure of last resort.

Referencing the point at which the final determination should be made on the various adjustments for next year, Smola thought the drop-dead date should come after mid-term while Chairman Bob Todd thought before Christmas would be more appropriate.

It was obvious at the meeting that the issues brought forward served as the starting point for the discussion that will likely take months to resolve. Depending on what is found, that discussion could lead to the consideration of additional measures that will require action to keep the school system operating within the state requirement to have a balanced budget.



grassroots's picture

If it weren't for Bob Todd and the other two BOE members beside Smith/Smola, we wouldn't be having this discussion until it was too late. Then it would be a crisis, scare everybody about "the chidren" and raise taxes. Thanks Bob.

NUK_1's picture

One thing left out of the article is they have been maxed-out on the millage rate-gee, who would have guess these great financial wizards would have done that already-and can't increase it. Sorry, no tax hike to save the school system from the terrible sins of the BOE in the past.

Labor day to Memorial Day calendar sounds like how the vast majority of people used to attend school. You know, back in the days where graduation rates were higher and HS graduates were literate and businesses weren't screaming about how totally unprepared grads were? Then, the "new" concepts of trying to backdoor in year-round schooling under the guise of knowledge retention happened along with several failed attempts at "new Math." Great work!

Facing a 9-10mil shortfall next year and cutting 50 positions will only save 3mil? What a nightmare for the school system and especially the students that will still be in the system because they are going to really feel the results of the BOE's stupidity. Smola and Smith should frankly be muzzled as their pathetic agenda got the BOE to the point it is today and they have nothing of value whatsoever to contribute to getting out of the disaster they had a major part in creating.

suggarfoot's picture

"Facing a 9-10mil shortfall next year and cutting 50 positions will only save 3mil? What a nightmare for the school system and especially the students that will still be in the system because they are going to really feel the results of the BOE's stupidity. Smola and Smith should frankly be muzzled as their pathetic agenda got the BOE to the point it is today and they have nothing of value whatsoever to contribute to getting out of the disaster they had a major part in creating."

Yep, I can't think of one person, who in my eyes, has done more to destroy the school system out of arrogance and personal goals than she.

I hear her unaccredited kid finally resigned and made room for an accredited teacher. That is good, there are many well accredited that were looking, and still are, for a job.

When I say personal agenda, I get mad all over again about the out of county kids. Years ago, I called her and told her there were many out of county kids going to Birch. I stated ways I knew, many were out of county, one of many of those was the 'complexion' of who was there. The ratio didn't match what was living in our part of the county. When we came to the very obivious, she blew her cookies. We had more black kids there than lived here that got out of Clayton and Fulton county plated cars in the morning. My kid has had several life black friends so there was no bias there. The deal is that it is an insult to both black and white people in this county that pay taxes to let others in that don't play by the rules.

I got a big long lecture, telling me I was racist. She went on to say she insisted that when her child had recently had a birthday party, that it be 50/50. At that point...I blew MY cookies and stated I didn't care what her personal goals were....only children who's parents PAY should go to school in this country regardless of her wishes or feelings. I stand by that. The people are elected to represent the taxpayers...not fill their own personal dreams.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Are you serious? Was that Smola or Smith that said that?
Very odd, very odd indeed.

Are you saying they turn a blind eye to the illegal students because of racial tolerance - or is that some sort of quota too? It still costs almost $8,000 per student per year for the illegals, doesn't it?

Live free or die!

suggarfoot's picture

When I complained about the out of county kids....she called me a racist. Then she, Smola, went into a tirade about how she felt it should be 50/50 and that her kid had a birthday party and she made sure it was just that.

I then told her 'I don't give a DAMMED about how you feel about a birthday party should be 50/50 ..I care about the school and I don't give a s#### what you do at your house!

I feel that attitude has fostered a blind eye at Flat Rock and Sandy Creek for many many years. I have a write up here that I intend to republish when she runs again. It was an interview that I'm sure she wished she had never given. She stated that she wasn't sure about putting her kids in school here because it was so white...that she was from up north and that wasn't how it was there....

I don't care if the kids are green...up north..Here I feel...if you don't aren't welcome here is what the moto should be.

I talked to someone that moved here and as I, tried to put their children in the same schools as mine went to. They ran into many kids they knew were from Fulton, so many that they went over to the high school and got over 40 out of county plates off the kids cars. You see if you have an out of county get a permit and then place it on one of those 'out of county business cars' she rants about...then you n your buddy park your cars back to back so the powers that be can't see the plates. This particular person got down on their hands and knees along with another, and made a list of over 40 cars with stickers and out of county plates.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Another whacko in a position of authority. Just what we don't need.
Looks like clamping down on the illegal out of county students is not going to happen as long as we have an uber-liberal on school board. Next election somebody has to multiply the $7,000 per illegal student per year that her personal philosophy is costing the taxpayers and hit her hard with that. Why is it just because people win an election they think they have suddenly gotten smarter and more righteous than the rest of us? My God Janet, it is just a part-time job. Get over yourself.

Live free or die!

PTC Observer's picture

Getting elected is just like getting drunk, but in the political case it's drunk with power.

To all you elected to office: It's call "representative" government for a reason, we don't want you representing your personal agendas, we want you to That is what we want not what you want. I am talking to you Janet.

No politician understands what that means!

They do count heads however and vote in that direction---for re-election.

It is like when a bank robber is successful, he, or she, can't wait to keep doing it until caught.

suggarfoot's picture

It is also my feeling that the overbuilding of schools has ruined this county for many years to come. All this 'build it and they will come' just that. I haven't looked at the state laws on it, but I have been told, what we have done here in that respect, is against the law. That you can't build in anticipation, which is exactly what they did.

I will join the happy crowd soon that will be absolved of school taxes because of age. When I found out how much is going to come off my tax bill I was giddy with delight. Your tax bill is over 70% school taxes. That is one serious chunk of change to play with, but it has been squandered by over building.

It is really important that this next election you get someone with a business background. I don't care if they have kids, or have them and homeschool or send to private. If they live in my area, the last two on the list could be understood. We need someone with a good business head and EDUCATION in business. We DO NOT need anymore wizardess of wall street types that only spent 2 years in college majoring in phycology. Yes, that kind of background makes them good at pushing the panic buttons of people, but good for very little else.

Ellis-Dee's picture

I see they didn't mention door to door bus service or free breakfast and lunch programs or paying several parents utility bills like they did at Kedron last year...

if its got tits or wheels its gonna give ya trouble!!

G35 Dude's picture

I think most bus drivers would love to see a Labor day to Memorial day schedule. From what I hear those buses are so hot that they are unbearable in August. And before you ask only the short buses have A/C.

The hot buses aren't too good for students either, in addition to the driver! Labor Day to Memorial Day WAS the schedule for many, many years---then changes were made for staff, etc. Not students or parents.
Time off during the school year is stupid!
Do the "get togethers" after school or on Saturdays.

If it isn't obvious to the Superintendent and the Board that the changes mentioned won't pay for even a majority of the short-fall, then they are hiding something!
Those things are to scare parents into allowing them to raise taxes.

I also doubt that the estimates for next year are accurate---the income will even be less next year than this one!

It is a mistake to publish all of this list of shortages and remedies to the public causing them to try and make the decisions for the Super and the Board.

The Super is well paid to do this sort of thing and the Board's job is to approve a workable budget---they don't need much help from a thousand different ideas of the public.

Why would you even tell the public that you are increasing the number of students per teacher, for instance, since it is your job to operate on the money you have.

I do not remember ever hearing what was happening when I was in school!
What do we need with a board if they don't know what people want already?

Don't do this like Washington just did a budget making us a sorry lot in the eyes of our friends. This was caused by asking the TEAS what they wanted in order to get re-elected!

First, we have to get rid of all the text books, which cost a fortune! All digital or shut the doors!
Second, we have to charge for bus service! Revenue neutral or nothing! Walking is good for the fat kids that live out in the county anyway! PTCites have golf carts!
Third, fire all the PE, art, and music teachers and double up on math and reading! Singing is for church! Art is for walls and overpasses! No buses takes care of PE!
Fourth, teachers need to work during the summer months instead of sitting home! They can be subcontracted out to local businesses to pitch hay, log trucks, and sweep floors.
Fifth, central office staff needs to be reduced to one--the superintendent! Sell the offices and office equipment to highest bidder. He can work out of his car!
Sixth, idle schools should be sold off or turned into prisons! There is big money in running private jails!
Seventh, fire half the math teachers and have the Asian students teach the locals!
Eight, let Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Wendys, Arbys, and others take over cafeteria services! No students eat the healthy stuff anyway! Just the tater tots!
Ninth, have the kids raise livestock on school grounds. This will teach them life lessons and generate revenue on beef, pork, and poultry sales! No buffalo--Sorry Teds!
Tenth, make the lockers in the middle and high schools coin operated! Daily fee or tote your stuff!
I have more if anyone is interested.

Braves off after a nice win last night. Uggla is the Man!

Which schools will they close? This will be very interesting.....

Peach County has found a way to make the four day school week work. I think this will be their third year. FCBOE may be lacking the one ingredient that the Peach superintendent says is required....courage.

Plus the summer off!

How will this save much unless the teachers and administrators also take a 20% pay cut and pay for 20% more of their benefits?

Are we teaching kids or paying teachers and administrators?

What do working Mothers do with kids for a day every week?

Just hire fewer teachers, etc., and put more in a room and run from Labor Day to June 1! No in between off-time.

Quit buying pprofessors new books every year and just teach them the BASICS out of an old book that teaches such!

Clearly you have no clue on what is going on with our schools or the economy. When you make a comment on what do working mom do with the kid’s everyday, well is the school system a babysitting establishment or a place to get an education. Our teachers put in long hours and money out of pocket that they do not get reimbursed. We even have some elementary schools with no working air conditioning. The dedication of our teachers can easy be back up by scores that Fayette County has.

The real question you should be asking is why do we have so many out of county students attending Fayette County Schools. Where is the money going? Clearly it is not in new books. What do all these department heads do? I can go on, but to criticize our teachers you are way off base. I dare you to spend time in a school and really see what goes on.

I hope with your attitude about who is the primary important ones at school, that you are not a teacher.

I am not in education but know of people who are. In my view the level of education that students are receiving has dropped. I am also saying not all teachers should be teaching. How many educators are teaching that really never went to school to become a teacher? If education is important, we need to raise the standards and give support to the teaching profession. Why not have all teachers pass a National Board test like we have in so many other fields? Education plays an important role in our future. As companies move into more automation, the basic skills are gone. How many kids can write a letter? How many people can give correct change if the register goes down? When we have children between 5 yrs old & 9 yrs old standing on a corner at 6:45 am waiting for a bus, are they really learning in school or are they too tired to learn? These kids should be starting later and the older kids should be starting early.
When you have classrooms with all level of education, how can a teacher teach them? Either the time is spent with all the lower kids (scores are important) or they will spend time with the higher kids. This does not include the teachers from handling the behavioral kids with no support from Administration.
Roundabout, I am not sure if you have kids currently in the school system, the bottom line we have issues and the administration loves to hide the problems instead of addressing them. Really we have no difference between Board Members & Administration in Fayette County then what is happening in Washington. Like you said what is the primary importance, the kids. Your views and my views are very similar.

has found a way to make a 4-day week work, but I don't think I'll be moving to Ft. Valley anytime soon!

C'mon Braves, git yer act togedder!

TV is for sissies! Real and True Americans get their news by reading--not spoon fed by pretty TV announcers! Remember, the ears go first!

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