However, having faced $155 million in state austerity cuts since 2003, and the county’s tax digest declining 36 percent for a $42 million loss for the school system during the last four years, the reductions could be worse.
Assistant Superintendent for Finance Jeff Allie said this is only the second time since the economic decline began that the school calendar has dipped below the state-mandated 180 days. Additionally, during the last three years combined, school employees have only had 16 furlough days, and administrative staff has had 21.
For the 2012-13 school year, a full 180-day calendar was possible and no furlough days were needed.
The 175-day calendar for the 2013-14 school year is the lowest the school system has had to drop, yet in other areas around the state, calendars have been reduced to as low as 144 days.
The school system will not need to compensate for the loss of days by adding instructional time to the school day.
Allie said the schools already exceeded the minimum requirement of instructional time set by the state, and even with the reduction of days, will still be in compliance.
The five employee and six administrative furlough days are comparable to what other school districts have had to implement for the 2012-13 year.
Allie said Cherokee County implemented eight furloughs days, Fayette five, Forsyth three, Griffin-Spalding five, Hall 10, Newton six and Rockdale three for the current school year.
The economic forecast for future school years isn’t exactly bright, either.
While the school system has not received word on how much state austerity cuts for the 2013-14, Allie said he expects the same amount the system saw this year, which was $28 million.
Meetings will start soon with the Henry County tax commissioner to determine the collection forecast for the 2013-14 school year, but Allie said he anticipating it will drop again.
“In 2009, our budget was $327 million. This year was $293 million,” he said.
The school board has been able to ride out the loss of revenue by not cutting personnel, but not filling vacated positions. Class sizes have been increased, expenditures have been limited and each furlough day levied saves $1.2 million.
The system also dipped into its cash reserves for the first time, using $11 million to balance the budget.
Allie said at the end of the year, the cash reserves will stand at $44 million.
Bracing for further revenue declines leaves the school system in a quandary.
“There are not many areas left to cut, to be honest,” Allie said. “But we will continue to look for ways to save money if at all possible.”