Richmond Co. school district's budget could mean fewer teachers, larger classes

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, June 13, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For many of you, summer is just getting started, but school leaders are already hammering out next year's budget.

For Richmond County, the district is short $34 million. So, several things are on the chopping block, including teaching positions and even school officers.

The news is not sitting well with father of two, Shane Rutland.

"Until the economy picks up and we start seeing some changes, I don't see much changing," he said.

A lot will change as school leaders deal with the deficit. To balance the budget, school officials are suggesting nine furlough days, cutting 53 teaching positions, a public information officer and 60 first grade teaching assistants.

For students, "Unfortunately we'll have to increase class size," said Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson.

That would mean five more students per classroom.

Two school officer positions are on that list of cuts. News 12 has reported on a number of fights, caught on tape and on school property, which leads one to wonder if school safety is at risk.

"We won't jeopardize a safe environment. We won't negotiate that," Roberson said.

Rutland said it would depend on where they cut the officers from.

"But I think public safety officers are critical, especially at the high school level," he said.

Roberson says this not just a countywide issue -- the district has lost millions in state funding over time.

He says the positions at risk are ones that would already be empty, but could we see layoffs?

"If the economy doesn't improve soon enough, that may be something we'd have to consider," Roberson said.

But for now, that's not an option.

Also on that list is the public information officer, which is the person those of us in the media deal with but they are giving that duty to someone else.

News 12 asked if shortening the school week to four days would save them money, but Roberson said they researched that idea and the difference in savings wasn't worth it.

We're told two board members spoke out against the proposals. They were all out of town for a conference, so we couldn't speak with them, but on June 27, they are expected to formally approve this plan.

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