CONYERS -- Teachers aren't likely to see furlough days next school year, but residents should expect to see an increased millage rate from Rockdale County Public Schools as a result.
The Rockdale County Board of Education approved Thursday a final budget for the 2011-12 school year. The budget includes a millage rate increase of 1.51 mills to 22.5 mills to collect about $3 million in local revenue and not require furlough days for school staff, as originally discussed earlier this year.
Board members Wales Barksdale, Darlene Hotchkiss, Brad Smith and Jean Yontz voted in favor of budget, while board member Don McKinney voted against it; members Jim McBrayer and Katrina Young were absent from the meeting, as they were attending the annual conference of the Georgia School Boards Association, as required.
The budget accounts for $123 million in revenues and more than $127 million in requested expenditures; the nearly $4 million difference will be taken from the ending fund balance for the 2010-11 school year, which is higher due to federal funds that the school system decided to save instead of spend last year, according to RCPS Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis.
Cuts to next year's budget include suspending alternative retirement contribution for the second consecutive year to save $3.6 million, deferring textbook purchases for nearly $3 million in savings and deferring computer replacement for a more than $1.5 million savings.
Several staff positions also are to be eliminated -- middle school graduation coaches for a more than $300,000 savings, a 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 currently 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.
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.
Smith said he felt it was wrong to take more furlough days from teachers this year, especially since the board was planning to suspending alternative retirement contribution and have enacted furlough days in the past.
"I don't understand why so many people are throwing the teachers under the bus," he said, adding that they were responsible for educating the children of Rockdale County.
He said that while some residents may see an increased rate if the value of their home doesn't change, but most people should see a decrease or a small increase.
Then, he asked that RCPS not send him a paycheck for the rest of his term.
"I'm willing to do my part," he said. "I will serve the county for free."
Yontz said that board members get paid $75 per meeting that they attend.
She added that making this budget decision was not an easy one.
"I believe it takes money to educate children," she said. "We've made a promise as board members to provide the very best education for all children in Rockdale County, and that's what I'll continue to do."
Hotchkiss said that board and the RCPS administration have spent countless hours researching various options and cuts.
"I'm tired of saying over and over the last four years that this is the toughest budget we've ever encountered," she said. "I'm not happy with having to make this decision, but there is nothing else to cut and provide the services that Rockdale County deserves to have in education."
Although the increased millage rate is part of the budget, the school board won't adopt a millage rate until its next meeting in July, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 21 in the board room at the RCPS administrative office complex at 954 North Main St. in Conyers.
Davis said that with the budget adoption, the board is only approving a millage rate of 1.51, which is below the rollback rate, or the amount of local taxes necessary to collect the same amount of revenues as the current school year. He expects to have more final estimates of local tax revenues by July, and if the revenues fall short of what is currently expected, the board may have to make additional cuts or discuss more of a millage rate increase.
If the board prefers a millage rate increase above the rollback rate, it would be required to hold three public hearings, Davis said. He added that the millage increase also could be less than expected, as it was last year.
At Thursday's meeting, Smith asked that the board not exceed the 1.51 mill increase.