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Posted: March 7, 2010 12:01 a.m.

No decision made on proposed cuts to education

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue blasted lawmakers Thursday for using what he called "scare tactics" regarding cuts to the university system budget.

"Let me say, unequivocally, that under my administration we will not dismantle a world-class university system we spent over two decades to build up," Perdue said.

However, in his recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget — which begins July 1, Perdue did suggest that the university system take roughly $265 million in cuts. Legislators had warned that the system may face another $300 million in cuts on top of that and university Chancellor Erroll Davis and the Board of Regents were asked to come up with an outline of what those cuts may look like.

Senator Seth Harp (R-Midland) and Representative Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who are responsible for drafting the state’s higher education budget, said in a press conference that the Board of Regents should also consider cutting salaries of the highest paid employees in the university system, something Senator John Douglas (R-Social Circle), has also suggested.

University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams made a base salary of $255,515.50 in FY09 and Senior Vice President for External Affairs Thomas Landrum earned $267,600. Accounting Professor Stephen Baginski made $341,928.51 and Real Estate Professor James Kau earned $267,908.65.

Director of Athletics Damon Evans for UGA was paid $420,000 in FY09 and his Administrative Assistant Sharon Kelley earned $47,034.96 while head coach for the Georgia Bulldogs football team, Mark Richt was paid $382,669.98 — more then the president of the university.

Locally, Georgia Perimeter College could face cuts of more then $9 million. The school’s President Anthony Tricoli earned $196,774.56 in FY09 plus more then $5,000 in travel expenses.

The four people who work in the county’s extension office and who oversee 4-H programs in Newton County make a combined salary of $80,580.64 – more then $116,000 less the GPC’s President; more then $174,000 then the president of UGA and more then $300,000 less then the football coach at UGA.

Proposed cuts to the school could mean an increase in class size, a freeze in 50 non-faculty positions, reduction of certain programs, as well as the reduction of part-time, overtime and student assistant compensation, two additional furlough days and a decrease in the operating costs.

Under the current proposal the biggest cut for Newton County would come in the elimination of 4-H programs and the possible shutting of the county’s extension office. The cuts to 4-H are something that have not been publicly addressed, the main focus having been on how the proposed changes would affect the state’s 35 colleges and universities. Even an increase in tuition at the university level would not help 4-H since their budget falls into Part B of the system’s budget and is not part of tuition at all.

"We have been pleasantly overwhelmed with community support for 4-H and Extension," said Program Specialist Terri Kimble. "Newton County citizens do not want to see either the 4-H program or our local County Extension office disappear. I’ve also seen an incredible number of youth and adults getting involved in their state government, possibly for the first time. I can’t tell you how excited people were to receive e-mails back from our senator and representatives. Newton County 4-H is very thankful for the support we’ve seen over the last few days."

Although nothing has been finalized at a state level and changes have yet to be seen, Kimble continues to be positive and said that both 4-H programs and the extension office in the county will continue to operate as usual.

"I hope people will continue to offer thanks to our legislators for their continued support of Extension and 4-H," she said. "I still can’t imagine a future without 4-H or a local extension office, and I hope we don’t ever have to see that come to fruition."

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