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I-TEAM: Schools cut funds in key areas, spend on consultants

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:17 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Richmond County School Board called one of its own members out of order just before they voted to approve a budget of more than half a billion dollars for the upcoming school year.

“You are out of order! You are out of order because this board has said it will not criticize…You are out of line, Dr. Frazier!”

This comes after our ITEAM uncovered nearly 3000 students missing from Richmond County classrooms this past school year.

We also first reported a whistleblower complaint alleging the district is breaking federal law when it comes to educating homeless students.

Revenue is projected to be down this school year, so the board voted to slash funds in several vital departments like instruction, transportation, and school administration. Other departments such as general administration, or the people working downtown, got an increase.

“We have had nothing but D’s and F’s academically from the state but we can find the money to build our schools.” Dr. Wayne Frazier said voicing a complaint before the board at a previous meeting. He’s not one to sugarcoat reality given the district’s current state of affairs.

The reality is the Richmond County School District was failing long before COVID closed classrooms.

“Our system will continue to be a D and F system unless the community gets involved.” Dr. Frazier told the ITEAM in a recent interview. “I think sometimes the community expects the board members to make changes and I can say it’s not going to happen-not what I see school board is not going to make no changes.…without the input of the community.”

But the community has stayed silent during the budget process.

Not one parent, citizen, or voter questioned the board on their plans to spend nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars this coming school year.

Not in the first public hearing. And not in the second public hearing.

“I think the budget is excellent.” Dr. Frazier explains to his fellow BOE members. “However, I am not voting to support it because I have been placed in this position as an elected official to make sure our school system thrives.”

Dr. Frazier was the only one to vote against the more than $532-million budget passed last week.

Federal dollars aren’t as abundant this year. The board expects revenue to drop by about $47 million.

To make up for the shortage, the district will slash funds from several departments including a $29 million cut from instruction and five million taken from transportation.

The board will increase funds in other needed areas. Pupil services will get a bump of more than five million dollars. We found instruction improvement will get an increase of nearly $700,000.

The Director of Teaching and Learning Yevette Foster will also receive an increase in funds. Her budget doubled to nearly $700,000 this year. We also found her budget for “other fees” also doubled to more than half a million dollars.

District spokesperson Lynthia Ross said the proposed increase for consultants will cover the cost of training teachers on newly implemented technology and textbooks.

She adds that the school district has increased the fund balance from $13.6 million to $45.9 million in three years, which helps to protect the school system financially.

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