COVINGTON, Ga. -- Newton County’s superintendent said she did not anticipate mandating furlough days for her employees in response to possible deep cuts in state funding for the school district’s 2021 budget.
Samantha Fuhrey told the Newton County School Board her goal was “to get everybody in place and back to work” after months of work and online teaching outside school buildings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
She said pay decreases in the form of furlough days, “right now, I don’t see having to go that route” after Gov. Brian Kemp recently said state revenue decreases may be 11% rather than his original 14% estimate.
The Georgia General Assembly was to return to Atlanta Monday, June 15, to complete its 2020 session after suspending it in mid-March because of safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
State lawmakers must approve a balanced budget – the only action required by the state constitution – by June 30. They will deal with the revenues which fell drastically as Kemp ordered everyone from government agencies to retailers and other businesses to shut their doors because of the virus beginning in March.
Georgia school districts, including Newton County, rely on state funding for major portions of their annual budgets.
Fuhrey objected after hearing some board members discuss possible items to cut to balance the 2021 budget, including an $87,000 contract with a consultant to provide teacher training.
The superintendent said the consultant, Dan Mulligan of Flexible Creativity Inc., provided a service the district needed to improve the quality of teaching.
One board member, Eddie Johnson, said he recalled the district in recent years requiring staff members to take furlough days – days off without pay – to help balance its budget because of an economic downturn. The board was now “potentially” discussing the same action, he said.
“I’ve learned some from that and there are other things that we can do prior to it getting to that teacher impact,” Johnson said.
Fuhrey said decreases in teacher pay and benefits were unlikely “unless something major happens at the state level.”
She said district administrators have “done a very good job of looking at what do we really need for the district" as they made purchases of equipment and services.
“As a result, we have a healthy-enough ending fund balance that we are going to be able to withstand some of the things that many other districts may not be able to withstand,” she said.
“We’ve done a great job with our resources and because of that we are able to continue to do the things that need to be done.”
She also credited school board members with helping administrators build up the fund balance, which is revenue left over and held in reserve after all expenditures are tallied in an annual budget.
The district employed about 1,470 in 2019, including more than 1,200 teachers, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. It had a general fund budget of $217 million this fiscal year.