Floyd County Schools Superintendent Jeff Wilson prepared school board members for upcoming cuts in a meeting early Monday.
At this point they don’t know where those cuts will be, but Gov. Brian Kemp has directed all state agencies to prepare for 14% of their budget to be cut. Wilson said he doesn’t know what percentage of their budget will be affected yet, but he cautioned that it’s “going to be painful.”
One of the ways they’re expecting to deal with those cuts will be five days of teacher furloughs. He projected those furloughs would save the system approximately $2 million.
“Until we have hard numbers it’s hard to say,” Wilson said. School leaders won’t know what the actual cuts are until after the legislature gets back together to pass a budget.
They’re expecting a loss of approximately $10.5 million.
“Even with everything we do, we’re still expecting to take $5 million out of our fund balance,” Wilson told the board.
Some of those cuts will be defrayed by a federal funding allocation under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Wilson said. On Monday, Georgia’s school board approved $2,005,542 in CARES funds for the Floyd County School System.
Board Chair Tony Daniel said he’d spoken to state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who said the legislature will likely pass a budget then go back later and amend that budget.
They’re expecting the discussions regarding cuts to go into July, Wilson told the board.
They discussed options such as raising taxes or cutting programs, although Wilson cautioned against those measures unless the situation is more dire than expected.
“We’re going to know a lot more when this budget issue is settled,” Wilson.
No decisions were made in the meeting regarding how they’ll institute cuts, however the board did vote on a continuing resolution to operate as normal under the Fiscal Year 2020 budget until a new budget is passed later in the summer.
The board approved four additional nursing positions, provided by Floyd Medical Center, to be shared among the middle and high schools. There are currently six nurses, who are at the elementary schools
Feeding programs a success
In the interim, between a statewide school closure and upcoming budget cuts, Deputy Superintendent of Operations Scotty Hattaway said they’ve provided students with nearly 150,000 meals during the system-wide shutdown.
He congratulated the school system’s food service department as well as those who have participated in the pop up markets.
They had 600 participants in a pop up market in March and 900 in April, Hattaway told the board.
The school system is receiving partial reimbursement, at approximately $4 a meal, from the federal government.
However, they’re still paying staff and having to buy food at times, Wilson said, and the school system is losing money.
The value outweighs the loss, he said, and the school system will continue with the feeding programs, at least through June.
Armuchee High School is planning a drive-through graduation ceremony. The students will be able to come in with their family and have a photo made, one car per senior. They’ll have two photographers taking care of the portraits.
“They’ll take a family portrait together,” said Principal John Rhodarmer. “Then they’ll be able to get their diploma ...” while still observing social distancing measures.
There is still an in-person ceremony planned for later in the summer, no dates have been established yet.
“We’re very, very proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Rhodarmer told the board. “We want them to know we care about them.”
Similar plans were presented to the board for Coosa, Pepperell and Model High Schools.
Talks of future consolidation
While consolidating schools isn’t on the table yet, the board still discussed criteria concerning attendance zone realignments.
Wilson said he sees that being an issue they’ll have to consider in the next few years. No specific school consolidations were discussed. Primarily they spoke about the considerations they need to take into account before choosing a course.
One point the board held fast on was the need for public participation in the decision. There were suggestions of polling county residents as well as what factors need to be taken into consideration before making a decision.
Wilson said many residents are very protective of their particular area, but don’t care what happens in other areas of the county. He said it’s understandable but they need to do what is best for the students and the system.
Prior to making any consolidation decisions, Wilson said they’ll develop the decision-making criteria and publish it for public review.
Circling back to the original topic over expected cuts from the state, Wilson said they’re working on the proposals and will present them before the board.