School system projects $85M budget shortfall

SUWANEE — Gwinnett County Public Schools officials are anticipating an $85 million shortfall in the 2011-12 budget.

Since the district is still in the early phases of the budget process, that number is a preliminary figure, spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

“At this point, there are still a lot of unknowns, including the state budget numbers,” Roach said. “... But we need a starting point, and that’s where we are right now.”

During last year’s budget process, district officials warned that the 2011-12 budget would be even tougher to balance — probably the toughest the district has ever faced, Roach said.

The end of the infusion of federal stimulus dollars, the effect of years of cuts from the state and the continued decline of the local property tax digest are all contributing to the shortfall, Roach said. Additionally, the school system is challenged by the cost of growth. Even though the rise in the student population has slowed, the total number of students enrolled in the district continues to go up each year.

School principals are currently developing their staffing plans for next year, Roach said.

“We do anticipate a number of teachers to be displaced,” just as they were last year, Roach said.

The displacement process is one of a number of annual personnel processes the district goes through each year. As always, the district’s priority will be to find positions for the displaced teachers before looking outside the school system to hire new teachers, Roach said.

That process will take place now through Feb. 28.

“This is a tough time,” Roach said. “We’re all going to feel it. ... We’re trying to develop the best budget we can given current conditions.”

The details of the school system’s budget are typically announced in April, and the school board adopts the spending plan in May.