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Social Circle schools face budget shortfall
Current spending plan is $18 million, which tops 2017-18 estimates
Social Circle Schools

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Social Circle City Schools is looking at a preliminary budget that is more than $2.5 million over its projected revenues for the coming school year.

The Social Circle Board of Education met Monday in a called meeting to discuss the budget, the first of several planned work sessions to look over the proposed budget and find both needs to fulfill and, perhaps more importantly for the small system, areas to cut to balance the budget.

The current proposal would see the system spend more than $18 million, which is $2.5 million more than the system expects to see in revenue for the 2018-19 school year.

“That’s not good news,” John Callahan, chairman of the SCBOE, said.

That projected spending is higher than last year’s $17.2 million budget, which was already a significant increase over the $15.5 million budget two years ago.

Some of those increases come from a need to hire new employees or fill gaps in existing programs. Others, however, already face the chopping block, such as a proposed chorus class.

“I’d love to have a chorus class at the middle and high school,” Callahan said. “But I don’t think we can make it work this year.”

There are good signs for the year’s budget, however. This is the first year since the Great Recession that SCCS does not face austerity cuts from the state and expects full funding from the state of its side of the school funding formula.

And the system has big plans for the Education Local Option Sales Tax for the coming year.

Some of the board’s biggest expenses will be covered by the ELOST, including replacing the roofs on the primary and elementary school to deal with leaks, and a variety of technology requirements.

“While we have money here in ELOST, it protects the money in the general fund,” Callahan said.

One such expense is the system’s push for more tech in students’ hands, as the system plans to purchase more Google Chromebooks, as well as iPads.

“At some point in the coming school year, we plan to be 1:1, with each student having their own Chromebook,” SCCS Superintendent Todd McGhee said.

The system plans to use the more versatile Chromebooks in all schools beginning with the elementary school, but teachers and administrators at Social Circle Primary continue to request the iPad for the youngest pupils.

“The Chromebooks have made this the smoothest testing period I can remember,” McGhee said. “But the younger kids in the primary school don’t test, so they enjoy the interactive features on the iPad. They may start testing in the primary school one day and we’ll need to switch over there, too, but for now this is the best option.”

The board ended the work session with no changes to the proposed budget but with plans to begin carving away at the fat of the financial plan when its next called budget meeting convenes.