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Fayette School Board moves closer to decision on furloughs

The Fayette County Board of Education Tuesday will discuss whether to impose additional unpaid furlough days for school employees

to offset further state funding cuts.

School board members previously said they would wait until April to determine whether to absorb the anticipated furlough days for all school system employees or to impose the furloughs in order to have a larger surplus amount for additional cuts expected for the coming school year beginning July 1.

The board is in the unenviable position of having to soon decide which course to take on the furlough issue. Their decision will be tempered by a recently announced 6.35 percent decrease in the county’s worth and the likelihood of further state cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year and the one that begins July 1.

Each furlough day for school system employees equates to approximately $600,000.

In all, the board was told last month that the combination of falling local revenues and the likely state cuts for next year could result in a decrease of $15 million below current levels.

Rumors of impending cuts to programs by the board have surfaced from both school system employees and parents. Some expect potential cuts to various extracurricular activities, including the pay for the coaches involved.

Many school systems across metro Atlanta are experiencing a similar situation as Fayette. Some are projecting larger class sizes, the elimination of some bus routes and a variety of staff and programs and, in some cases, the closure of schools.

Fayette County’s preliminary tax digest figures showed what tax levying entities around the county had been expecting. Those numbers show that Fayette County’s overall value decreased by 6.35 percent for 2010. Hardest hit were the unincorporated areas and Fayetteville.

The total worth of the county for 2010 is projected at approximately$5.384 billion with last year’s values at approximately $5.748 billion, a difference of approximately $364 million, according to Fayette County Tax Assessor Joel Benton.

Meantime, the Georgia Senate on March 26 passed SB Bill 515, the Educator’s Salary Protection Act, by a vote of 35-11. SB 515 prevents school systems with more than six percent of their operations budget in a reserve funds account from imposing additional furlough days on school system employees prior to June 30.

Even if passed by the House and signed by Gov. Perdue the law, as it stands now, would not apply to the Fayette County School System since it does not maintain an officially designated reserve account.

Next door in Coweta County, the school board earlier this year committed to absorb up to three furlough days in the event that the state approved the cuts. The Coweta County School System has more than $22 million in its reserve account

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