Peach BOE to hold public hearings on employee furloughs

FORT VALLEY — The Peach County Board of Education is giving the public two chances to speak up about a proposed four-day furlough for teachers and other personnel in the coming school year.

Today and Thursday at 4 p.m. in the central office on Vineville Street, the school system will hold hearings on the matter.

“Any time you reduce a teacher’s salary, you’re required to hold two public hearings,” Superintendent Susan Clark said Tuesday after a school board work session. “Even though we’ve already talked to the teachers, we want to be sure to give them and others the opportunity to express their opinion and hopefully get their questions answered.” The furloughs would be taken at the beginning and end of the school year, and two days during Christmas break, she added.

Peach, in calling for the furloughs for the first time, is joining other school systems in Middle Georgia using the tactic as a way to save money.

“Getting this far this year has been a huge challenge for us,” Clark said.

Although Bibb has not yet announced any proposed cuts for next school year, the system furloughed 556 employees —not teachers or low-paid employees — for four to five days this school year. That is projected to save more than $800,000.

Houston is also considering furloughs for an unspecified number of employees for two to three days.

For the coming school year, Houston is also proposing a millage rate increase of up to 1.5 mills, as well as other cuts.

Baldwin and Laurens school systems are trying to save money through teacher attrition. About a dozen teachers in Milledgeville are retiring this spring, and contracts for some teachers were not renewed.

Jones, Laurens and Baldwin all have stated they are also eliminating their usual summer school programs to save money.

In doing so, Jones would save $90,000 from its budget, Laurens would save $83,000 and Baldwin about $70,000 in transportation and teacher pay.

The Peach furloughs are part of a tentative fiscal year 2010 budget package Clark presented Tuesday for the board to consider before voting on it, possibly at next Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

The $61.4 million budget includes a 1.538-mill increase, bringing the millage rate up to 17 mills. A mill in the county generates about $625,000, said Susan Pearson, finance director.

The proposed budget also includes:

Ÿ no salary increases;

Ÿ no substitutes for custodians who call in sick;

Ÿ lease-purchase of eight new buses;

Ÿ lease-purchase of new computers;

Ÿ temporary reduction in short-term substitute teacher pay from $65 to $55 a day for certified teachers and from $60 to $50 per day for non-certified teachers; and

Ÿ reduction in staff to include 13 paraprofessionals, seven clerical positions at the schools, eight teaching positions, one assistant principal at Peach County High, and the loss of 8¾ positions at the central office.

Clark noted the system spent $234,000 this school year alone on substitute teacher salaries.

“People are going to have to start coming to work,” she said. “Two hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars goes a long way in a district our size.”

To contact writer Jake Jacobs, call 923-6199, extension 305.