CONYERS -- Rockdale County Public Schools is looking at nearly $13 million in possible cuts for next school year. Reductions could eliminate several staff positions, popular programs like summer school and drivers education and textbook purchases.
After officials announced last month that RCPS is expecting significantly less in federal, state and local revenues for next school year, an internal budget committee was charged with finding areas to cut to make up for at least a $10 million budget shortfall.
"It's been a very stressful last few weeks for everyone," said RCPS Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis. "It's been an eye-opening experience for everyone."
Last week, Davis released a list of possible cuts that could be included on next school year's general fund budget.
The proposed cuts include suspending alternative retirement contribution for the second consecutive year to save $3.6 million, removing six staff days from the calendar to save $3.3 million, deferring textbook purchases for nearly $3 million in savings and deferring computer replacement for a more than $1.5 million in savings.
Several staff positions also are proposed to be eliminated -- middle school graduation coaches for a more than $300,000 savings, full- and part-time central office coach positions for $100,500 and a central office educational specialist position for $44,450. Other positions that are open are suggested to be frozen -- a central office supervisor position for $81,250, two bus driver positions for $40,000 and a central office Web master position for half a year for $37,800. Eliminating local funding for an executive director position would save $118,500.
Davis added that salaries and benefits make up about 90 percent of the general fund budget, as they do for most school systems.
Eliminating elementary and middle school summer school programs and the drivers education program next school year would save nearly $300,000, and making enrichment camps, which are offered to elementary and middle school students several times per year during extended breaks, fee-based programs would save $43,550.
Miscellaneous central office department reductions would save more than $105,000, and transportation reductions would save more than $15,500.
"Unfortunately, I don't know if there's any other way to balance this budget," Davis said. "2012 is going to be a very, very tough budget year, and unfortunately, I don't know if the outlook beyond that is going to be better."
Eliminating seven teacher positions would save about $500,000 and increase class sizes some -- the elementary class size ratio would be 17 to 1, the middle school ratio would be 17.5 to 1 and high school would be 18.5 to 1, including all teachers.
"These are still very manageable class sizes," Davis said.
He said a staff reduction of this size usually happens through natural attrition, when other teachers retire or resign. Any teachers who might have their positions eliminated should be able to change to other available positions as long as their certification allows for such and as long as there are no performance issues. If their certification doesn't allow for other positions, RCPS could offer them long-term substitute paraprofessional positions that include benefits, he said.
"Unfortunately, we try to do more with less," Davis said. "It's not getting any easier at all."
RCPS officials expect to learn more details next month, after the state releases its final budget figures and local figures can be better determined. The board's finance committee is expected to meet again in May.
Davis said although RCPS has closed its online budget survey, his office is continuing to accept feedback and suggestions.
"The budget committee continues to work on reviewing all of our options," Davis said in an email to staff on Friday.
Last year, the school board cut more than $10 million, including increasing class sizes, delaying book purchases and computer replacements and freezing some positions, among other items. For the 2009-10 school year, RCPS cut more than $4 million by eliminating paraprofessional positions, increasing class sizes, eliminating computer replacements and textbook purchases and cutting non-salary budgets.
RCPS must issue teacher contracts no later than May 15, according to state regulations.
The school board is expected to adopt a tentative budget on May 19, according to its budget calendar.
The next public meeting for budget discussions will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9, in the board room at the RCPS central complex, which is located at 954 North Main St. in Conyers.
The board is expected to approve a final budget on June 16 and a millage rate on July 21.