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School board weighs budget concerns
Members of the Glynn County Board of Education say they're doing everything they can to keep from having to raise taxes.

The board, during a retreat meeting Wednesday at Risley Annex on Albany Street, is looking ahead at what the cost of public school education will be in the next fiscal budget year, which begins July 1.

Costs during the 2013-2014 school year will likely continue to outstrip revenue, which is forcing the board to consider additional budget cuts or doing what the majority of board members would prefer not to do: raise millage rates.

The millage rate has remained the same for six years despite losing more than $12 million since 2009 to Senate Bill 486, a tax exemption for seniors that board members say has been abused by those for whom it was never intended, said Andrea Preston, assistant superintendent for finance.

The board has also suffered from a decade's worth of state austerity cuts totaling almost $42 million, she said.

These and other circumstances force Glynn County to provide 63 percent of funds locally to its own total budget.

The state now only provides 37 percent, when it used to provide more than 50 percent.

Preston produced a tentative proposal for cuts, including removing some school resource officers, nurses and instructional coaches, as well as some resources from the Golden isles Career Academy from the board's budget.

She made it clear those cuts would not be ideal.

"I seriously don't recommend cutting these, but it's important to look at because it's basically all we haven't cut," Preston said during the retreat. "There's more to education than just instruction."

Board members also are not keen on eliminating other programs that have fallen victim to cuts elsewhere. Camden County Schools have lost music and arts programs and have reduced the school calendar down to 166 instructional days, both things Mike Hulsey, chair of the Glynn County School Board, doesn't want to see.

"We're trying to keep what we feel is almost sacred," he said.

Hulsey also proposed something he knows will be unpopular - an increase in furlough days.

Some counties in Georgia have furloughed employees as many as 10 days while Glynn County has kept furlough days below six, he said.

"I hate to put it out there, especially when there are households with two teachers, but we can't look at raising the millage rate without looking at this first," Hulsey said.

Jim Weidhaas, spokesman for the school system, said he hopes taxpayers see how the board has worked without compromising student needs.

"By not doing things like raising the millage rate, I hope people see that the board has tried to be as fiscally responsible as possible during these tough economic times," he said.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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