Tough economic times can call for tough measures. And some of those measures may mean furlough days for Fayette County School System employees.
That decision will be made in the coming weeks by the school board members as they assess the situation for the remainder of this fiscal year and the one to come beginning July 1.
Comptroller Laura Brock last week projected a June 30 balance in the general fund totaling $9.343 million. That amount includes $4.509 million carried over from last year and $4.834 million projected to be the surplus from this year’s general fund budget.
Beyond that, Brock is proposing an additional cut of $990,000 in various operational costs, bringing the year-ending surplus projection to $10,333,227.
On top of that, looming cuts from the General Assembly for the remainder the fiscal year and for the coming year beginning in July could well mean additional cuts to school systems across Georgia. And here at home, preliminary tax digest numbers are expected in a couple of weeks, with tax-levying entities, including the school system, expecting lower revenues. Brock said the expected that those figures could lead to a decrease of more than 5 percent in the tax digest. Meantime, for example, Fayetteville and Tyrone are expecting a decrease in the tax digest in the 7 percent range.
Faced with the likely reality that the recession will play havoc with revenues, the school board in coming weeks will consider the idea of imposing 1-3 furlough days between now and remainder of the current school year.
“We don’t want to give furlough days,” said Superintendent John DeCotis. “Staff have done a phenomenal job. Staff have sacrificed and need to be recognized. And what we do this year will impact next year.”
And that was the point. At $600,000 each, one furlough day tacked on to the projected $10.333 million estimated fund balance would mean starting the July 1 fiscal year with $10.933 million. Three furlough days would increase that total to $12.033 million.
Board member Lee Wright suggested doing “whatever we need to do this year,” suggesting that the two recent snow days might be used as furlough days.
For her part, board member Janet Smola said she wants to see what legislators do about the state revenue shortfall.
“If we delay the decision it would be bigger bites out of smaller checks,” said board Chairman Terri Smith, noting that the pay reduction through furlough days could be spread out through August for teachers and through July for other school system staff.
Board member Bob Todd agreed with Wright, saying the board should not begin the next school year.
Either this month or next, board members will take on the issue of using surplus funds this year to offset expected cuts next year or forego the furlough days and see what happens with cuts that could be imposed by the General Assembly.