The Bibb County school board plans to cut its general fund expenses by $10 million in the coming school year by eliminating 55 employee positions and ending the busing of magnet school students this fall.
“We have less money to spend so we’ve had to reduce our expenses,” said Ron Collier, the school system’s chief financial officer.
Thursday the board tentatively adopted its 2010-11 budget, which takes effect July 1. The school system aims to spend $178.5 million in fiscal 2011 — down from the $187 million in the current-year budget.
The 55 employee positions being eliminated, which include jobs for teachers and alternative school staff, are estimated to save about $3.8 million, Collier said.
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The board cut transportation expenses about $500,000 by no longer busing 350 students from their neighborhoods to the county’s magnet schools.
“I’m sure it will impact us, but I don’t know how much,” said Linda Bivins, principal of Alexander II Magnet School, where more than 100 students ride the bus. “I know it’s tough for everyone. Parents will have to work on every means possible to get their children to school.”
Board members voted 4-3 for the bus cuts. Gary Bechtel, Lynn Farmer, Albert Abrams and Tommy Barnes voted in favor of the cuts, while Susan Sipe, Ella Carter and Tom Hudson opposed. Board member Susan Middleton was absent from the vote.
“It will be a sad day to deny students an option to ride to these magnet programs. There’s a history about why we started magnets,” Carter said of giving minority students access to magnet schools.
But other board members said money is a critical issue and as a result, too many other bus routes were being impacted by overcrowding or students arriving late.
“I don’t look at this in terms of costs,” acting Superintendent Sylvia McGee said. “For many, many years we have not addressed the needs of students who on a daily basis have been late (to school). The 1,100 who stay in their home zones have to be spoken for, too.”
Hutchings Career Center students would continue to be bused.
McGee presented two different budget versions — one including transportation cuts and one without.
The approved budget calls for the collection of $77.6 million in property taxes, down about $1.4 million from earlier projections. The district aims to end the 2011 school year with $12.3 million in its reserve fund.
The other version presented called for spending $179 million and projected the system to end its school year with $11.8 million.
The school district generally likes to have about $23 million stashed in its reserve to have a “healthy” fund balance, Collier said.
If any state cuts come midyear, he said, there is also a $2.8 million contingency built into the adopted budget.
“I don’t like (these cuts),” Abrams said. “This is just the beginning.”
The school board plans to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a board vote to officially adopt the budget during the same meeting.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.