Madison County school leaders expect a 3.1 percent dip — from $40.1 million to $38.86 million — in next year’s budget due to a slumping economy and a shortage of state funding.
Rarely do school budgets decrease.
“In Georgia, it’s really unprecedented,” Madison County School Superintendent Mitch McGhee said. “There have been times where we’ve had no growth. But times where we’ve had a decrease, it just hasn’t happened here.”
School budgets in Georgia have typically expanded despite economic slumps, which makes this all the more uncommon.
“Even in poor economic times, Georgia was still growing so much,” McGhee explained. “The budget was still increasing though there might have been a recession or something going on.”
The Madison County Board of Education (BOE) will vote on its tentative $38.86 million budget June 9. The spending plan calls for just under $11.25 million in local tax revenue, down 5.85 percent from last year.
Following a public hearing, the school board will approve the finalized 2009-2010 budget in mid-to-late June.
The decrease in next year’s budget is due to a $1.24 million revenue shortfall — a result of a drop in state funding, a dip in the local tax digest and the expectation of some uncollected property taxes.
The revenue shortage would have been worse if not for nearly $1.4 million in federal stimulus funds headed Madison County’s way.
In addition to the $1.24 million revenue shortfall, the system is looking at $1.66 million in added expenses. Most all are costs — such as step increases in teacher pay and health insurance coverage expenses — over which the school system has no control.
To compensate for both the lost revenue and the required expenses, school leaders had to slash $2.9 million elsewhere in the budget.
Included was $915,278 worth of teacher reductions since the state is funding 14 less positions in 2009-2010 (Most all teachers affected retained their jobs by moving into spots vacated by retirement or resignation). School leaders also cut $751,061 in central offices expenses and an aggregate $320,766 from the school campuses.
School officials composed the 2009-2010 budget with a hard look at 2010-2011, which could be just as trying.
“We think we’re pretty lean,” McGhee told the school board at its Tuesday night work session. “There’s a lot of things we’d like to do. We just know we can’t, and we’re also kind of keeping one eye on next year (2010-2011) as well.”