BUFORD -- The Buford Board of Education voted Monday to assign 41/2 furlough days to most employees for the second half of the academic year.
The additional unpaid time off will bring the total number of furlough days for the 2009-10 school year to 91/2 for most Buford City Schools employees, including teachers. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers, however, will not see a further reduction in work hours.
The move is expected to save the small city school district about $500,000, Superintendent Geye Hamby said.
"The bottom line is we do expect and anticipate tremendous cuts from the state that pertain to the fiscal year 2010 budget, which is the one we're operating under," Hamby said.
The 41/2 furlough days will be comprised of three early release days -- employees will have unpaid afternoons off on Feb. 11 and March 18 and 19 -- and three professional learning days -- March 5 and May 26 and 27. The calendar change basically eliminates the post-planning period after the last day of school on May 25.
The recommendation was preceded by a great deal of thought, Hamby said. Affected employees' paychecks will be prorated for the next eight months, starting in January, to reflect the pay cut.
"I think we're being proactive in this situation," Hamby told school board members. "By doing this now, we'll keep pay consistent for the course of 12 months."
Although implementing furlough days amounts to a pay cut, by prorating the checks, employees' monthly pay will be about what it was -- and, in many cases, higher than it was -- during the first semester of school, Hamby said.
Making the cuts now instead of waiting for a directive from the state reduces the impact on employees, Hamby said.
School board chairman Phillip Beard said there's "a lot of gloom on the horizon."
"What we're asking everyone is to buy into this," Beard said. "We're looking at this long term. ... All we're doing is trying to keep this system prepared for the worst."
If the financial situation improves, Beard said the school board "will sit back down and put this money back in there."
"We want to pay you," he said.
Bruce Fricks, a school board member, said he thinks it's important to be proactive in this situation.
"If we wait until we get direction from the state, at this point it could be March," he said. "It gives us a lot less opportunity to do something without affecting people drastically.
"This is not something we want to do," he added. "I don't think it would be wise to wait for direction from the state."
Hamby said he planned to send an e-mail to employees Monday night explaining the changes.
On a more positive note, Hamby said, the school system received certificates for meeting the state target in excellence in education of students with disabilities and for decreasing the number of students with disabilities who dropped out of school.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 25. Meetings are held at the new Central Office at 2625 Sawnee Ave. in Buford.