Tattnall Square making salary cuts to combat sour economy

Public schools across Middle Georgia aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of a sluggish economy. A private school in Macon is cutting teacher salaries by 10 percent.

About 85 Tattnall Square Academy employees, ranging from teachers to coaches and administrators, were told Tuesday that they will have a little less in their paychecks starting at the end of this month.

The board of directors implemented a 10 percent cut in expenses, including salaries, to keep costs in check.

“Nobody wants to take a pay cut, but we also understand what’s going on in the economy,” said headmaster Barney Hester, who also is taking a deduction.

Along with endowments, the private school operates on tuitions, which have been difficult for some families to provide given the economic outlook.

Tattnall, which has about 565 students, was down 119 students this school year and about 27 percent since 2004.

The National Association of Independent Schools recommended that its member schools budget for fewer students this fall, another reason for the cuts, said Mark Pitts, chairman of Tattnall’s board of directors.

The move was part of the board’s five-year plan to keep finances sound and tuition rates relatively low, officials said.

“The alternative was raising tuition,” Pitts said.

After close to a 9 percent tuition increase last year, the board is implementing just a 1 percent increase for the fall.

School officials are adamant that the private school does not consider itself struggling. Rather, it’s simply being proactive to the times.

“During these uncertain economic times, I want to assure you that we are not in the same situation as some of these struggling schools,” Pitts wrote in a letter to parents. “The doors of Tattnall Square Academy will remain wide open next August.”

Gilead Christian School closed last year because of finances and Monroe Academy faced that prospect recently until a fundraising push.

Tattnall faculty members have been supportive of the cut, Pitts and Hester said. How much the cut would save was not available.

Tattnall made fewer than 10 faculty cuts this school year because of enrollment decline.

School officials said faculty and staff salaries will return in full or beyond if enrollment increases.

Tattnall Square Academy opened 40 years ago. Tuition costs for a high school student have increased from $4,068 a year in 1998 to about $9,180 per year now.

The school lowered its tuition prices for pre-K and kindergarten students this school year to try to increase enrollment. Tuition for kindergarten students fell from $8,760 to $4,500, and for pre-K from $5,220 to $3,600.

About 15 percent of Bibb County’s overall school-age population attend private schools.

About 24,500 students attend Bibb County public schools, about 4,500 attend private schools and about 500 students are home-schooled in the county.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.