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State of the System Address

Superintendent Dr. Bill Truby gave a state of the school system address March 19 at the Fine Arts Center. The text of his speech is as follows: General Introduction To say education in general, and more specifically in Georgia, is under fire, water, scrutiny, red and black ink, etc., is an understatement. This situation has particularly taken hold in the area of finances and hasn’t allowed us to follow our dreams, visions, goals, missions and beliefs as we’d have liked. It seems every step forward has required at least two backward. To your credit, Lamar County school system, we’ve progressed in spite of obstacles. To your credit, we’re much better than we were from many perspectives. In spite of all the news I’ll share today, we’re better than many and most school districts in Georgia. If I had one terse comment to make on this subject it would be this: Why is Georgia, which ranks 48th in education also ranked at that level for support of public education? But I digress’¦. I’ve looked at what is going on around the state in response to these statistics: ’¢ $11,200,000 not delivered to public schools since 2003 ’¢ Spiraling upward cost of health care and retirement benefits ’¢ Added costs for accountability ’¢ Required expenditures for such programs as special education ’¢ Direct and indirect fuel costs have us hurting in transportation, school nutrition, postage and supplies ’¢ Of course, 90% or more of most school budgets is found in the areas of personnel ‘“people ‘“ and utilities. Mandated pay increases by the state and the board of education’s sense of fair pay have kept numbers going upward. I have page after page of the efforts made through our region and state of what districts have done to meet these demands. I see 20 furlough days; wiping out athletic programs; laying off hundreds of employees; closing buildings; eliminating special subjects, projects and programs; outsourcing; sharing positions among schools; not providing once-offered school benefits; and a whole lot more. Background to Lamar County For the past several years ‘“ since my arrival ‘“ the leadership of our school system has had a multi-faceted approach to the financial dilemma. First, we had to remind ourselves our job and responsibilities require us to do the very best for our children. They shouldn’t come up short in terms of what other students around the state are being offered and exposed to. Secondly, we’ve been focused on sharing our good fortune with our community. This has been reflected in terms of welcoming citizens of Lamar County into our buildings, programs and opportunities for education, recreation, information and socialization. Our board of education has been focused on making sure the taxes for our system were used well and appropriately ‘“ always with sensitivity to the economy and personal conditions. Hence, there has been no change in the amount of tax levied for six years. Thirdly, we’ve felt a great deal of empathy for our employees, especially those who committed to our plan of progress and a world-class school system. These are people who’ve been with us for some time and others who’ve joined us in recent years. We also understand that, as the county’s largest employer with well over 400 employees, we’ve had to do all we could to make sure people of all levels of employment were taken care of ‘“ fairly and often at a price to our bottom line. Fourthly, as we’ve watched the tough decisions being made in every district in the state, we’ve realized our list needed to be written as well ‘“ with the thought, hope and prayer that it wouldn’t have to be used. We began acting on that list in bits and pieces but the greatest contribution to trying to keep a status quo came from the school board’s ability and desire to use its fund balance. While still healthy compared to many school districts, it’s obvious our fund balance must now begin to be protected as never before. At times like this I must remind everyone about our pots of money. What I’m talking about today is only what we call M&O money: Maintenance and operation. Construction isn’t part of this topic, as it’s handled through other sources. Then there are grants we use quite a bit as well. The Facts With more austerity cuts coming and costs outlined previously still on the rise, we find ourselves looking at a need for an adjustment of $2.8 million to have a balanced budget next year. Through a myriad of plans and actions, we’re now prepared to share what next year will look like for our system. The goal is to try to keep ourselves as normal as possible. What our students, employees and families have come to expect from us must be as closely maintained as possible. This offers credibility, continuity and maybe even some hope. The decisions are as follows: Through the departure of personnel and no replacements from the outside we’ll save: $500,000. This is already accounted for in our math. We’ll have five furlough days that will save us $380,000. Outsourcing custodial services ‘“ or the equivalent ‘“ will save us about $100,000. We seek to raise the millage rate to 18 mills, generating for us $625,000 Budgets in departments are frozen yielding no savings. Redesigning some programs can save us about. $200,000 We believe Piedmont Power could bring us $200,000. A few small things to cut costs will yield $30,000. This list totals $1,535,000. The total deficit is $2,795,100. Still needed is $1,260,100. The board contribution is $1,260,100. This leaves a fund balance as of June 30, 2014 of $3,407,000. What happens over the next few months will dictate the next moves on our part. What might these moves mean? On the positive side: When businesses come, housing and the economy take an upturn and tax revenues flow from these very likely scenarios, we need to adjust accordingly by helping our tax payers, rewarding employees and restoring the fund balance for another potential stormy day. We can operate as we are for a couple more years. On the downside: There is no question that five furlough days will not be enough. A 160-day calendar or less may have to be looked at. Positions will have to be eliminated. Positions, whether classroom electives, administrative, or classified, will have to be combined. Athletics will be trimmed as will all extra- and co-curricular activities. Transportation routes will be redrawn. Contracts with outside agencies will be terminated. Freezing of salaries and all pay. Conclusion and reiteration I’m proud of the work being done here in Lamar County. We aren’t where we want to be, but by golly and thanks to God, we’re making progress. There’s hope for us where others don’t have any at all. There is this reality with which we’re dealing that causes us to prepare ourselves for these conditions for next year. ’¢ Five furlough days that are already reflected in the next two years of calendars. ’¢ Outsourcing for our custodial services. ’¢ Not replacing departing employees wherever possible. ’¢ Reviewing our programs to see what changes we can make to run them more efficiently. ’¢ Raising the millage rate to 18 mills in Lamar County. The effect is less than $5 per month increase. ’¢ Freezing budgets for departments and buildings.

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