Athletics, school consolidation discussed for budget cuts

Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree highly stressed that he does not want furlough days in the 2012-13 budget / Sarah Bleau

The Dougherty County School System says they do not know an exact amount but say they will have to make substantial and tough cuts for the next budget year.

"Everything is on the table," says School Board Chairman James Bush, who addressed consolidating some of the schools that are under building capacity, and making cuts in athletics and supplementaries for teachers and coaches.

"Education has been hit real hard in terms of cuts. I think everything has been hammered in except a few things and I think athletics is one of them," says Bush.

Board Member Milton Griffin says he disagrees, saying coaches should keep their salaries as they are.

"They (the board) just don't realize how hard the coaches work. Coaches work over time. They work Saturdays and Sundays: Their days off. They work all the time and they mean a lot to our kids. Whatever money they make they deserve every bit of it," says Griffin.

As for school consolidation, the school board says there are quite a few schools below 70 or even 50 percent building occupancy and should be consolidated.

"It just makes sense to do some consolidation which would cut out expenses and utilities, personnel, maintenance and all those areas," says Board Member Carol Tharin.

Robert Lloyd, DCSS Director of Finances and Business Operations, says April 9 there will be a meeting to discuss rezoning some of the schools; he says an independent consultant will be on hand to assist with the process.

Tharin and fellow board member Velvet Riggins suggested cutting pay of personnel â" which makes up more than 90 percent of the school system's budget â" and cutting some administrative staff.

"I have many friends who are teachers and their constant complaint is that there's too many administrators downtown like too many chiefs and not enough Indians," says Tharin. "This is where we need to look at some cuts. These people downtown make big bucks, and we can consolidate some of those jobs and save substantial money."

Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree says they are looking at making cuts in departments including music, foreign language and elementary art. He also suggested they look at cutting some graduation coaches.

"The classroom needs to be the last place we cut; not the first place," says Board Member David Maschke, whom many other fellow board members agreed with.

Murfree also suggested moving forward with the academy for dropout students and installing more energy-saving technology: Both of which would help save the school system money, he says.

An item that everyone on the board, including the superintendent, agreed on was that there should be no more furlough days.

The deadline for the school system's budget it June 30, and Lloyd says they won't know an exact amount needed to be saved in the 2012-13 until then when other budgeting factors are more clear.

"It's not a race; it's about getting it right," Lloyd says.

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