Money troubles are hitting Georgia public schools hard, causing administrators across the state to take furloughs and encouraging Gov. Perdue to rearrange the education budget, including money allocated for school nurses.
According to Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for Liberty County schools, LCSS is anticipating about a $2.75 million budget cut for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
While the budget cuts are going to require careful planning and tight purse strings, Superintendent Judy Scherer said furloughs for administrators aren’t necessary for Liberty County, although other counties in the state, such as Fayette, have had to do so.
“Not at this time and we do not anticipate any furloughs in the future,” she said.
Rogers explained that Liberty County was able to avoid furloughs because they spent months preparing and figuring out ways to budget the money.
“As soon as we heard about the possible budget shortfalls, we took action,” Rogers said. “We began immediately.”
Based on the premise of eliminating all non-essential costs, the board has implemented many new policies to help make ends meet.
One of the things the board is doing is asking departments to work off of “zero-based budgets,” which means that every dollar allotted must serve a specific need. He said there’s no extra money or leeway. Everyone now starts with $0 and works up on a needs-only basis.
Rogers said the board is also cutting down on traveling and conference costs, and they are also freezing hiring for some clerical positions.
“Currently, we’re not rehiring vacant, clerical positions,” he said. “For example, if a para-pro retires, we aren’t going to fill the position.”
Rogers said no one is being let go, they just aren’t rehiring.
In other signs of economic trouble for Georgia’s education system, Gov. Perdue recently suggested, as part of his 2009-10 projected budget, reallocating 30 million dollars that currently goes towards paying school nurses.
If the change is approved during the legislative session, LCSS will most likely have to put a similar freeze on rehiring school nurses.
While the state doesn’t completely fund nurse salaries (according to Rogers, LCSS spends about $650,000 a year on nurses and in the past the state has provided almost $200,000), the lost money will cause on a strain on resources.
“We’re not getting rid of any nurses, but we might have to think about sharing,” Rogers said.
Bert Brantley, spokesman for Perdue, said the Governor isn’t overlooking the need for school nurses; he’s just making adjustments in the budgets to give school systems more control over how they spend their money.
“We fully understand the benefit and value that the services provide,” Brantley said.
Funding for school nurses is currently a separate line item on the budget, he said, meaning it’s money that must be used for a specific, predetermined purpose. Perdue is requesting that all line items be rolled into the main budget giving each system more control over how they spend their money.
While there will ultimately be less money, schools will decide how their system can best spend their money. With Perdue’s idea, the money doesn’t have to be taken from funding school nurses; it will be up to the system to determine where the cuts should come from.
Brantley said it’s never easy to make tough decisions about money, but when $2.2 billion is being cut from the overall budget, it’s hard to prevent education from taking a hit.
“We know the pot’s going to be smaller, but let’s make the pot as big as we can,” Brantley said of the decision to roll all line item into one large sum.
Rogers said as of right now they can’t do much more than wait until the legislature makes a final decision.