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More school cuts may come in April
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Although the Newton County Board of Education was able to make the necessary cuts to the 2011-2012 budget during its Tuesday meeting, Superintendent Gary Mathews warned that more cuts could come, possibly as soon as April.

"I believe tonight is likely only Round One," he warned.

Mathews told the board and those assembled that the ending fund balance of the 2011-2012 school year is projected to be $7.4 million, but to not let that number lull them into a false sense of security.

"That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, and we’re OK for 2011-12," said Mathews. "But if you take that out to just one year further, to say, 2012-13, and you presume that there will be no new revenue and no less revenue (from the county, state and federal government) then your ending fund balance would be $2.6 million. That’s still OK for the following year, but in 2013-14 the board would be looking at an almost $2 million hole. In order to rectify that budget and have a minimalist fund balance, the board would have to cut $6.5 million at the end of 2012-13," said Mathews. "And all of that is on the presumption of no further cuts."

Also Tuesday, the board approved unanimously to change high school scheduling to a seven-period day, which will save $2.8 million but eliminate 47 teaching positions.

Additionally, the board voted unanimously to reorganize and reduce maintenance and custodial staff (savings of $954,000); eliminate two assistant principal positions — one at Alcovy High School and one at Newton High School (savings of $215,000); reduce school resource officers from 18 to 14, as well as the additional reduction of the Sharp resource officer (a savings of $214,285); cut the central office budgets 10 percent (savings of $160,000); and combine the positions of the Newton College and Career Academy CEO and Director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (savings of $65,000).

The board also voted 4-1 to reduce the 1 percent board contribution to the 403b retirement plan for Teachers Retirement System employees to .5 percent (savings of $422,000) with Henderson-Baker opposed.

"Unless the economy turns around substantially, we could be facing cuts up to $6.5 million following the 2012-13 school year. I pray not, but it is a distinct possibility and one that will have to be faced in other school systems throughout Georgia and elsewhere," said Mathews. "…We’re going to have to contend with the new normalcy, which is doing more with less."