Preliminary RCBOE budget calls for 135 cuts, including 75 teachers

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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, June 11, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Richmond County Board of Education has passed a preliminary budget for the upcoming school year.

It includes 135 job cuts, including 75 teachers, more students per classroom and potential property tax increases.

All of that to make up for a $20 million cut from the state.

"Here we are last minute, last hour, so bottom line is we made our bed, someway we gonna find a way to lay in it," said Board President Venus Cain.

With just two weeks left to approve a final budget, school board members have a lot on their plates.

"You're asking us to make decisions on people's lives. We need to make sure whatever we do we're doing correctly," Cain said.

The proposed budget will cut 75 teacher positions, 22 paraprofessionals, 30 custodians, add two more students per classroom, potentially increase property taxes and much more.

"We're in dire circumstances, and it is a case that's going to continue," said District 6 Board Member Jack Padgett.

"This year's budget is probably the toughest one that I've been faced with in the nine years I've been on the board," added District 8 member Jimmy Atkins.

The budget also includes a 7 percent cut at every school.

"At this point, after several years of cuts, now we're really getting down to the bare bones," said Cheri Ogden, principal at Sue Reynolds Elementary.

She says the best decision the board made was giving each principal the ability to decide where to make those cuts.

"Anytime you have to tighten your belt and suck it up a little bit more, it's nice to have some input and to have a voice in that process," Ogden said.

In the end, they approved the budget with a 6 to 4 vote.

"I think of it as a personal budget," Ogden said. "If a husband or wife loses a job, you have to make some awful decisions to survive, and in some ways, it looks like we've gone into survival mode. We're just hanging on till we can turn the tide."

They also cut one furlough day. This year, they have proposed eight instead of nine.

A lot of those teachers have already signed contracts for the next year, and some could still possibly lose their jobs. Board members say that's because the budget was not discussed soon enough before contracts went out.

They now feel somewhat under the gun to get the budget approved by the July 1 deadline. They will vote on the final budget in two weeks.

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