State Cuts School Funding, Healthcare Triples

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The state is slated to hit schools with more funding cuts this year, according to a statement made last Thursday during a Fannin County Board of Education meeting. As Board Financial Director Susan Jackson presented the 2014 budget calendar to the board last Thursday, she underscored the pressing financial strains facing the district this year. In her presentation, Jackson noted two areas of concern, cuts in state funding and the aggressive increase in healthcare costs.

Regarding funding cuts, Jackson cited a recent Georgia Budget and Policy Report. According to the report, from 2009 to 2014 the state has cut Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding by 9.6 percent. The report goes on to say the state’s proposed budget for K-12 education over the next fiscal year is underfunded by $1 billion. The improvement from last year’s budget, though, is slight, where in the 2013 budget QBE was underfunded $1.1 billion. Next year’s budget is expected to see a $205 million increase. However, the report says that more than 60 percent of this amount is dedicated to funding enrollment growth and normal salary adjustments for teachers.

In an email to FYN today, Jackson said at this time the district does not yet know the extent of Fannin County’s funding cuts for the FY13 midterm budget or the FY14 budget.

During the meeting, Jackson also stressed the skyrocketing cost of healthcare for the district.

“By July 2014,”

she said,

“the monthly cost per person for healthcare will increase to $746.”

This is the cost the employer will pay for each non-certified employee, employees who do not require certification for employment. The rate has more than tripled since increases began in December 2010, when the district paid $218 for each non-certified employee. In FY13, Jackson said the district paid $446 per person per month for non-certified and $912 per person per month for certified employees.

Facing these strains, Jackson recommended several ways to reduce the FY14 budget. Here, she recommended reducing the local supplement for all staff, reducing health benefits for all staff, reducing dental benefits for all staff, reducing the number of days in the school year, eliminating as many positions as possible while maintaining instructional integrity, reallocating committed funds to the general fund and raising the millage rate. The board and finance department will consider these ideas between now and June 2014 when the board will pass next year’s budget.

“You gave us a lot of useful information,”

Board Chair Sandra Mercier said,

“it might have scared us a little bit but, it is all stuff we need to know.”

Also in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Art Hubbard requested the board approve several projects: repairing the roof on part of Blue Ridge Elementary school, converting the old field house at the high school into classrooms, heating the hallways at the middle school and the construction of a new maintenance facility.

“All of these projects are greatly needed and will be 100 percent funded by SPLOST funding,”

Hubbard said.

The board also approved hiring Frank T. Burk as a substitute bus driver and Denise S. Hyatt and Christopher Welsh as substitute teachers.

The next regularly scheduled meeting for the BOE is set for March 14th.

Author

MG

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