School board approves budget cuts that include job loss but no school closings

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By Angye Morrison

Gadsden County School Board members unanimously voted to implement the general fund recommendations as presented by Superintendent Reginald James during last week’s board meeting.

The list did not include any school closings, as had been previously discussed during board workshops.

The recommendations were, along with the amount of savings to the general fund:

• Eliminate 20 positions to maximize class size and cut costs (savings of $800,000)

• Remove behavior specialist positions from general fund (savings of $283,000)

• Remove 10 non-ESE paraprofessionals from general fund (savings of $220,000)

• Revise procedures/processes in transportation (savings of $300,000)

• Move reading coaches to reading teacher positions (savings of $220,000)

• Reduce contracts for grounds maintenance to mowing once every two weeks, rather than every week (savings of $70,000)

• Reduce salaries of ROTC instructors to 50/50 match and increase ROTC class loads (savings of $80,000)

• Transfer Americorps program subsidy to Title I (savings of $80,000)

• Temporarily use categorical state revenue for other reasons; i.e., reading plan and Safe Schools (savings of $200,000)

• Remove the two remaining parent liason positions from the general fund (savings of $50,000)

• Reduce energy comsumption due to the Honeywell contract (savings of $400,000)

The total savings would be $2,703,000.

James presented suggestions to the board last month that totaled $3,040,000 – a difference of $337,000 – and included moving Gadsden Elementary Magnet School to become a “school within a school” at St. John Elementary School.

The superintendent met late last month with parents and teachers at GEMS, and assured them that he, along with the board, wanted the best-case scenario for the district overall which would have the least amount of impact on students.

But after crunching numbers, James said he felt that keeping the school open was possible.

“I felt like we could do it. I am an advocate of community-based schools and frankly, the concept (magnet school) is good for the district. It’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s going to be tight (budget-wise), but it’s been tight all along.”

But James said the current budget cuts plan is contingent upon the district receiving federal stimulus funds.

“If we don’t get the federal stimulus funds, it could be a problem,” he said. “The governor has said he feels confident we will get those funds but if we don’t, we will be forced to look at things again. (Not getting stimulus money) would be a major problem for every school district, including ours.”