On May 1, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that because of the impact of COVID-19 all state agencies should begin to prepare for a 14% reduction in funding. That includes K-12 public schools.

On May 14, Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Denia Reese announced that all county school personnel will be taking a 5.5% pay cut, in the form of fewer work days, due to the loss of at least $12.6 million in revenue from the state.

“With personnel cost savings and using at least $5 million from the system’s reserve fund,” said Reese, “the Catoosa Board of Education can manage the state budget cuts without increasing property taxes.”

Salaries account for 90% of the CCPS operating budget. Every CCPS employee, from Reese on down, will have 10 days cut from their work year. Reese says employees will be paid the same per-day rate they have been receiving but will work 10 fewer days, five of which will be regular instructional days and five of which will be in-service days.

“With every employee taking a 10-day reduction, the system can maintain jobs and benefits for employees and programs for students,” says Reese. Reese says there are no plans to reduce staff and all positions that have been posted will be filled.

Gov. Kemp has publicly stated that he intends to fulfill his campaign promise of teacher pay raises as soon as circumstances allow.

In a May 1 interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting, Kemp said, “As you know, I included in my budget this year, fully funding the pay raise that I promised on the campaign trail, but also know that teachers are watching the news and they know this unprecedented environment that we’re in right now.

“I don’t think many teachers would even want a raise right now, dealing with the drastic situation that we’re in.

“I think certainly they realize that it’s going to be a tough budget environment for everyone. No one is going to be spared.

“But I also know that our teachers, our administrators, and our local leaders at the educational level, they’re smart, innovative, resilient people. They’re going to come up with ways to work with us to try to figure out how to deal with a situation to rebuild our economy back better than it ever was before…

“And when we get back to that level, then I intend to fulfill my promise of that pay raise.”

On returning to normal, or whatever the “new normal” may turn out to be, Reese says, “Based on employee and local school governance team input, the Catoosa Board of Education has adopted a new calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. The start date remains August 10th, and (we have) an #OPENSCHOOL Task Force developing plans to start school safely on this date. The Task Force will closely monitor state and federal guidelines for COVID-19, and the system will be prepared with contingency plans that include: digital learning, partial opening (designated attendance days), and full reopening. Parents and the community will be alerted if an alternative start date becomes necessary.”

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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