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School system looks to cut $14.4M to balance budget next year
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Rockdale County Public Schools will be looking for $14.4 million in cuts over the next couple months as it tries to balance the budget for the next school year and will likely be seeing some instructional days cut from the calendar.

Chief Academic Officer Lee Davis reported at the school board finance committee meeting Thursday that among the most significant expense increases were health insurance costs for classified staff of about $850,000 and the 30 additional teachers needed for increased student enrollment.

Davis said the $14.4 million is the amount needed for cuts even after freezing salaries for the second year, which will save the school system about $1.9 million.

The STEP and cost of living freeze represents one of the biggest savings for the budget. Davis pointed out 90 percent of the budget is made of salaries and fringe benefits.

"We don't feel like we can in good faith give those raises to any of our employees" while the school system was facing cuts that could affect instructional time, he said.

A cut of one calendar day represents about $500,000 in savings, said Davis.

A raise of one mill in the school portion of the county property tax rate would bring about $2.1 million in funding.

Outsourcing classified jobs, such as was done last year with janatorial positions, is on the table as well, said Davis. But if any jobs were outsourced, it would be done with the requirements of saving the school system money and still providing a quality service and product. School nutrition programs wouldn't make much sense to outsource since the school nutrition program is a financially self supporting program with an financially astute dircector, he said.

Superintendent Richard Autry gave historical context to the budget cut struggles by reiterating that over the last four years, the school system has seen $40 million in austerity cuts.

"With a $14 million deficit we have to look for, I am extremely concerned with where that comes from," said Autry. "It'd be one thing if ithis were a one year or two year phenomenon. What is getting us to diminishing returns is it doesn't end."

Autry said he hoped to come back to the school board by the next work session with budget options.

A tentative budget is scheduled to be adopted in May. The final budget is required to be adopted to by the end of June.