What could be cut?

The Newton County School Sys­tem has to shave $9 Mil­lion from the bud­get

The Covington News - - Front page - By Am­ber Pittman apittman@cov­news.com

The search for $9 mil­lion in ed­u­ca­tion cuts has be­gun in Newton County and School Sys­tem Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Gary Mathews has re­leased a list of 13 po­ten­tial cuts.

Some could save the sys­tem $200,000 while oth­ers could save $2 mil­lion.

“Lo­cal rev­enue is pro­jected to de­cline by an es­ti­mated $6.5 mil­lion for the school year 2011-12, and state rev­enue could de­cline by as much as $3.6 mil­lion,” said Mathews in an email. “Ad­di­tion­ally ARRA funds used for school-based po­si­tions in the amount of $1.9 mil­lion will no longer be avail­able… Per pupil rev­enues for school year 2011-12 are pro­jected to be $1,732 less than they were in school year 2007-08,” said Mathews.

“Given the pre­vi­ously an­nounced pro­jected NCSS deficit of $4.6 mil­lion,” con­tin­ued Mathews, “and the need to se­cure a pos­i­tive fund bal­ance of at least $4.4 mil­lion at the end of the 2011-12 school year, the sys­tem is still tar­get­ing a re­duc­tion of $9 mil­lion in ex­penses for 2011-12 de­spite the gover­nor’s more

op­ti­mistic State of the State mes­sage re­gard­ing K-12 fund­ing.”

There are sev­eral ways money could be saved:

- Change high school sched­ul­ing from a six-pe­riod day to a seven-pe­riod day to in­clude re­me­di­a­tion and en­rich­ment for stu­dents

This would save $2,820,000. It would elim­i­nate 12 teach­ing po­si­tions at East­side High, 17 at Newton High and 18 at Al­covy High, sav­ing an es­ti­mated $60,000 in salaries and ben­e­fits for each of the 47 po­si­tions.

This would also al­low for strug­gling stu­dents to have a “fo­cus” pe­riod. Some stu­dents could take seven classes for credit and oth­ers could take six classes for credit with a “fo­cus” pe­riod. Ad­vance-level stu­dents could use a “fo­cus” pe­riod to ei­ther study or to take an ex­tra class.

- Con­tract with Om­buds­man to pro­vide a new al­ter­na­tive school op­tion

This op­tion would elim­i­nate Sharp as the al­ter­na­tive school, sav­ing $1,941,962. Om­buds­man (a di­vi­sion of Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices of Amer­ica) would work with stu­dents now served in Sharp with a dif­fer­ent pro­gram that would al­low stu­dents to make up cred­its and fo­cus on school­work, with the ul­ti­mate goal of go­ing back to their home school and grad­u­at­ing.

- Three-tier stu­dent trans­porta­tion

This op­tion would change ar­rival and dis­missal times for ele­men­tary, mid­dle and high school stu­dents and would save $1,477,441. It would elim­i­nate 44 bus driver po­si­tions, 25 sub­sti­tute bus driv­ers, one me­chanic, 27 bus monitor po­si­tions and re­duce fuel con­sump­tion and fleet in­surance.

- Elim­i­nate 70, six-hour per day, reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion para­pro­fes­sion­als at the ele­men­tary level

This could save $1,127,000.

- Re­or­ga­nize and re­duce main­te­nance and cus­to­dial staffs

Re­duce cus­to­dial work­days by 10 days; elim­i­nate three high school fa­cil­ity co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tions, down­grade three cus­to­dial po­si­tions at cen­tral of­fice, ser­vice cen­ter and Main­stay from grades four through seven, and 29 cus­to­dial po­si­tions through­out the rest of the schools. This could save $954,000

- Re­duce the school year by one day for stu­dents and em­ployee work­days (non-school days) by one ad­di­tional day

This could save $950,000. Em­ploy­ees would have their work year re­duced a to­tal of eight days (six of which have been re­duced the past two years).

- Change the school sched­ule

Change to a four-day school week, or 156 school days (sav­ings of $820,000)

Lengthen the school day by 42 min­utes for ele­men­tary and 52 min­utes for sec­ondary, which would be 158 school days (sav­ings of $750,000)

Lengthen the school day by 20 min­utes for ele­men­tary and 28 min­utes for sec­ondary, for 169 school days (sav­ings of $375,000)

- Elim­i­nate 28 eighthour per day, reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion para­pro­fes­sion­als at the ele­men­tary level

This could save $582,400.

- Re­duce the 1 per­cent board con­tri­bu­tion to the 403b re­tire­ment plan for Teach­ers Re­tire­ment Sys­tem em­ploy­ees to .5 per­cent

This could save $422,000.

- Elim­i­nate two as­sis- tance prin­ci­pal i i po­si­tions ii

One po­si­tion at Newton High and one at Al­covy High elim­i­nated could save $215,000. It would leave four as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals at each of the high schools.

- Re­duce school re­source of­fi­cers from 18 to 14

This would leave three of­fi­cers at Al­covy and Newton, two at East­side, one at Sharp (should it con­tinue) and one at each mid­dle school. This could save $171,428.

- 10 per­cent cut in all cen­tral of­fice bud­gets

This would save $160,000.

- Com­bine Newton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy CEO and Di­rec­tor of Ca­reer, Tech­ni­cal and Agri­cul­ture po­si­tions

If com­bined, this could save $65,000.

Cen­tral of­fice cuts have been dis­cussed in the past, but Mathews de­cided against in­clud­ing them in this round.

“Given the 14 cen­tral of­fice and sup­port po­si­tion cuts over the past two schools years and the two down­grades, the sys­tem is now down to 19.5 cen­tral of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tors,” said Mathews. “With ap­prox­i­mately 19,500 stu­dents, that’s a ra­tio of one cen­tral of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor per each 1,000 stu­dents.”

Mathews noted that if the sys­tem’s rev­enue pic­ture should im­prove, the board could re­store items on short no­tice.

The school sys­tem has placed a sur­vey on its web­site and is ask­ing res­i­dents to weigh in on the po­ten­tial cuts and to of­fer ideas of f their hi own. The h sur­vey can be found at the school sys­tem web­site, new­ton­coun­tryschools.org

“Our fer­vent prayer is for the re­al­iza­tion that this bud­get re­duc­tion ex­er­cise is a part of a nec­es­sary process,” said Mathews.

“A process that can be fa­vor­ably al­tered by con­di­tions and events pri­mar­ily out of the school sys­tem’s con­trol. And, while we can­not count on mea­sur­able re­lief for our shrink­ing rev­enue sources, we un­abashedly pray for such re­lief for our stu­dents’ sake, our staff’s sake and for our greater com­mu­nity’s sake.”

Pho­tos by Brit­tany Thomas/The Cov­ing­ton News

Cost cut­ting mea­sures: Three op­tions for cuts to the School Sys­tem bud­get in­clude mov­ing the stu­dents (top) to a four day week with more classes per day, cut­ting School Re­source Of­fi­cers (left), and switch­ing the bus sys­tem to a three-tier sys­tem (above).

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