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School system struggles with budget woes

Photo by Jason Wright

Photo by Jason Wright

SUWANEE -- Gwinnett County's school district plans to eliminate some positions, increase class sizes and require two furlough days for most employees as it struggles with a budget shortfall.

Teachers from around the county voiced concerns to board members Thursday about looming cuts to the FY2013 budget and how the numbers might affect schools.

Board members spoke with some bleakness to the Teachers' Advisory Council during the meeting about a projected budget shortfall.

"I wish we had better news on the budgetary front," said School Board Member Carol Boyce. "Unfortunately, we don't."

Daniel Seckinger referenced a projected $89 million shortfall stemming chiefly from a continued decline in local tax revenue and the end of federal stimulus dollars used to balance the FY2012 budget.

Seckinger said that funding cuts at the district level could affect the central office as well as individual schools.

"I encourage folks to understand that it's all taking place countywide," Seckinger said. "We've got our backs up against it."

Added Seckinger: "I think we're at the end of our rope as far as doing more with less."

Officials with Gwinnett County Public Schools released a document Thursday stating that the district planned to address the shortfall by reducing central office department budgets by 2.5 percent for $1.6 million in savings; eliminating 54 vacant central office positions for a savings of $2.7 million; earning of $21.6 million in additional state revenue; and reduction of the district's contribution to the Gwinnett Retirement System for a savings of $19 million.

In addition, $43 million in savings could come from increasing class sizes by two students districtwide; continuing two furlough days for all employees except bus drivers and school nutrition staff; releasing of all employees hired after the beginning of the school year and retired employees who are working part time; as well as leaving vacant any district-level positions that currently are unfilled or that become vacant during the year.

The district does not plan to eliminate instructional programs, hike the millage rate, add additional furlough days, or reduce salaries or instructional time.

The budget is slated to be approved in mid-May, according to district spokesman Jorge Quintana.

Despite the news, Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said the district remains in the good graces of financial agencies Standard and Poor's and Moody's as one of only 16 districts nationwide with a AAA bond rating.

In addition, Cost said the district has about $100,000,000 in reserves, "which keeps us afloat."

Comments

kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

If there isn't enough money, then that sounds like cuts need to be made like everyone else is having to do. Get more jobs for people and maybe there would be enough tax money to blow away. We can't keep giving and giving. We pay you all, not the other way around.

Maybe there are too many high paid staff sitting around. The parking lot is always full of cars so staff isn't shorthanded. Cut some staff, full or p/t, and hire more teachers. Maybe we are overstocked with school buildings in Gwinnett. Where are the brains to figure out how to live within your means? The State isn't getting any better either. Talk to all the legislators or vote for new ones. Simple idea.

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LoganvilleResident 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm pretty sure the moral of this article was that the school system is making cuts to avert a funding shortfall. Did this completely fly over your head? I'm pretty sure furloughs, axing positions, and the other measures are making "cuts" as your post says needs to be done.

I haven't seen anyone saying the school board intends to raise taxes. I've seen the school board telling everyone to do more with less. However, if the people that haven't educated themselves on the issue with the charter school admendment vote yes for it, we may see a tax increase if it passes.

I am a proud graduate of Gwinnett County Schools. It pains me to see people who don't recognize we have one of the best school systems available.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

My school board taxes have gone up every year.

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LoganvilleResident 2 years, 6 months ago

No they haven't. You either are being dishonest or are misinformed. I just went on the Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner's website to check. For the last FIVE years, the tax rate for Gwinnett County Public Schools has remained EXACTLY the same. For tax year 2007 - tax year 2011, the tax rate has been 19.25 mils. The bond rate also stayed exactly the same. If your tax AMOUNT has gone up, it is because your property value has increased. I highly doubt that too but congratulations if it did.

On the other hand, Gwinnett County Government, a SEPARATE non-related entity, has raised their tax rate.

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ssilover1 2 years, 6 months ago

You must read your tax bill wrong.

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

If that is true, consider yourself lucky. Most have lost value year after year for 3 -5 years now.

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gwinnettresident1 2 years, 5 months ago

Kevin you are right. There's about 7 levels of management before you get to the Super....No company i have ever worked for has this type of management. There is a big cut...Lets do it..We need to go to the board meetings and force it on them...We are the customer if you remember.

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

This is what happens when an economy goes bust. Property values are in the toilet and many properties are rentals in Gwinnett are becoming rentals. People that could never afford to live in Gwinnett are coming from Dekalb to rent these home and go to our schools. Rental homes are of lower value and the tax revenue generated is extremely low. There are also many children that attend GCPS that do not legally reside in Gwinnett, aside from illegal immigrants. Cheats have taken advantage of this situation. Enrollment increases should not be happening at the pace they are in this economy, but they are in GCPS because they will take students that don't belong. More students equates to more fed funds per pupil but property values are killing the budget. Gwinnett county is turning into Dekalb quickly, and GCPS are not far behind.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

This could very well be the contributing factor in having to build more schools.

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BuzzG 2 years, 6 months ago

News2me touched on a the solution to this problem. If we send the illegal aliens home we will not have to educate their children. Most have poor English skills and bog down the classrooms. Let's send them back to where they belong. It will free up classrooms and our teachers will have a better student-teacher ratio. Of course we will have to learn how to mow our own lawns again.

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Braveshopr 2 years, 6 months ago

Buzz -did you not read Ga. deported all of 5000 JUST this year! It appears they have to do a crime before they are deported. You said they have poor English skills, unlike other foreigners to this soil, they have poor skills because many refuse to learn. Trying to get some information, I spoke with a Spanish lady the other day - I asked her if she spoke English, Her reply - "no, do you speak Spanish."

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow, you and many others disappointment me. Did you know that 25% of the county population was born outside of the U.S.? So, 250k people, if 25k are kids and if 10% of those kids are illegal than that is 2500 kids. That will clear out 100 teaching positions. What if it was 5000 kids, 10000 kids, or 15000 kids? All that will happen is teachers would get laid off due to lack of need. Fewer teachers, less admin, less office staff, less custodians, less bus drivers, etc. Your solution would just hurt the economy more. The parents pay rent/mortgage to someone, who has to pay property tax. So they are paying their share of tax for these kids too. Also, many kids learn rather quickly. The ability to learn has nothing to do with whether or not you are legal. By the time they hit 2nd or 3rd grade they are at par if not higher than their legal counterparts. If you want to talk about where they belong, well then let's just give back all the land that was stolen through Manifest Destiny, the Indian Removal Act, and colonization. That way I and all the other white folk can move back to Europe where things are even worse. The Latinos can have back Texas, and the West Coast. I'm not going to sit here and type up every group of people, but I'm sure you can see my point.

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

If NOT here legally we shouldn't have to measure how quickly they learn because its immaterial...

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Mack711 2 years, 6 months ago

It is time for the GCPS to understand that we the taxpayer can not give up more in taxes to them to run their system. As noted in other comments they seem to think that when more funds are needed just raise school taxes, they will pay. Well some day we will close that open check book. It is time to find cuts in the system before it goes bankrupt if not already. You got the E-SPLOST passed, now you want more. Well their is no more. You have your hands deeo into our wallets to the point we can not afford to give more. When will this stop?

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ssilover1 2 years, 6 months ago

When you get enough education and learn to spell correctly.

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Ashley 2 years, 6 months ago

SSilover1 - Nice grammar; loser.

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SuxBeanU 2 years, 6 months ago

Just like our Federal Government, GCPS does not have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem. When times were good they went on a buying spree, now they have to figure out to to pay for all those purchases. With all the new schools that came online in the last ten years you have to ask, how much did GCPS overpay for new building sites? I'd venture a guess that those over payments would go a long way towards balancing today's budget.

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

The purchases were made so students could be educated. Everyone over paid in Gwinnett that bought anything in the last 10 years!

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FreeThinker 2 years, 6 months ago

If this continues into next year, then they will have no choice but to raise the millage rate. They cannot allow this once esteemed public school system go into the toilet(like Dekalb County). The Board members have a responsibility to educate the children of this county. Further cuts that will hinder the education of the children are unacceptable and it shows the Board is negligent of their responsibility.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

Kill all the sports stadiums and sports programs and we won;t be in this problem. SInce when does each school need its our stadium? Why isn't there a spsorts complex for all teams to rent out and use? A novel idea that the BOC didn't ever come up with. No, each school had to have its own stuff and at our expense. The parents of those kids that use these things are smiling since we all have to pay for this even if we don't have kids in this system.

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chasmcjr 2 years, 6 months ago

The BOC has nothing to dowith the schools. It is the BOE!

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

Might need a state act to raise the millage rate above where it is right now... Any state reps care to comment?

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FreeThinker 2 years, 6 months ago

If this continues then they will have no choice but to raise the millage rate. That is the reality of the situation. The Board cannot let this once esteemed public school system go into the toilet(see Dekalb). The Board has a responsibility to maintain high standards in educating the children of this County.

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Jen1981 2 years, 6 months ago

Like always American people want to blame on somebody for not facing the truth, come on! Have you guys check on the drop percentage of WHITE and BLACK people, or criminal rates as well, they don't get deported but they get incarcerated for life, and who pays for that as well? Be serious, is not of what kind of people goes to school or not, at least immigrants are trying to give a better live to their children, while mowing your lawns, Education is a right every single human on the world has! It is time to stop giving all of the issues around to the immigrants. It is time for citizens who have the availability to run this country to do their job and stop just thinking about their own goals!

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Sthrnldy 2 years, 6 months ago

Education is a right every single human being in the world has? Oh please sprare me! Jobs that "Americans will not do" does not generate enough income or taxes to begin to pay for the education that Illegals take from US citizens. Those rental homes are cheap and do not generate nearly enough in property taxes to pay for the multiple kids in an Illegal household.

There is a direct correlation to the majority - minority population of Gwinnett and our financial demise of our country. People are moving in, just not people with money. The people that are moving in do not generate enough money as the people that are leaving. Like it or not, the demographics of this county are starting to reflect the socioecomic status of it's residents. Again, the money and the taxbase is leaving Gwinnett.

Agree with others - Gwinnett is on a fast track to become Dekalb.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

Please let me know where that right is in the Constitution.

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

Legal immigrants are NOT a problem or a factor in this discussion, It's the ILLEGAL ones and there is a BIG difference between the two.

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Suwaneesince1991 2 years, 6 months ago

If a CEO in the Business world had a 89 million dollar defecit, they would be fired by their shareholders.

You can't keep asking your stakeholders to bail you out on the backs of your employees, the honorable teachers of this county.

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HonestIngine 2 years, 6 months ago

The board already gave Alvin Wilbanks an extension, so he's a lock for several years. Now we need to have new voices on the board.. Time to get Mary Kay Murphy out of office...Vote is in November... Jen Falk is running against Murphy. It's time to change all political incumbents.. Go to the Polls and vote them out..

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cannot_believe_it 2 years, 6 months ago

hmmm....cut teachers, cut pay, furlough days, cut staff employees, raise the number of kids in classes, etc, etc....all this while the superintendent got a RAISE. All this while the are superintendents get RAISES....

really now....what is the REAL problem here.....can you spell GREED....

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Mack711 2 years, 6 months ago

So THAT is what E-SPLOST was for!!! Now we know!!!

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HonestIngine 2 years, 6 months ago

It's amazing how Wilbanks, got the raise and extension, while the teachers on the front line have had no salary increase in years.

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ShilohParent 2 years, 6 months ago

The school system used every dime it was given over the last 15 years. When they built the new high schools they came with large football stadiums, well equiped gyms, baseball fields and anything else they could think of. When Shiloh high was built it came with a gym that had a rubber floor. There was no stadium bulit for us, we had to play our games at South Gwinnett. Also Mill Creek is over crowded with trailers sitting out back to teach the students while two neighboring schools sit with empty classrooms. Seems crazy that we have to pay for these trailers.

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

Sorry Gwinnett bought those trailers YEARS ago and save on storage by moving them around...( Smiles)

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Sthrnldy 2 years, 6 months ago

Educating such a diverse student population is expensive. The money and taxbase are leaving Gwinnett. This is what happens when the people that support you the most via taxes get the least in services.

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TOWG 2 years, 6 months ago

Your right, what happens is, we leave.

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

Who is WE? Where are you going to go? GCPS is the best system in GA.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

Stop voting for this SPLOST tax and they will have to put an end to all this greed. SPLOST just adds infrastructure which taxpayers must maintain and support forever.

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gwinnettresident1 2 years, 5 months ago

On the note of SPLOST. The school gets to borrow money ahead of the SPLOST and then repay the loan with SPLOST money...What happens if the SPLOST doesn't bring in the revenue expected...Who pays then?

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TOWG 2 years, 6 months ago

The county doesn't understand that when they take the recently passed "e-SPLOST" funds and use them to air-condition gyms and kitchens the energy rates, "that are going to necessarily skyrocket" according to our President, are going to have to be funded by a still declining base of home values. Home values are not going to be rising in Gwinnett any time in the near future and therefore the taxes generated will continue to drop. Better get used to lean times GCPS, they are a part of your future for the next 3-5 years minimum.

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Ashley 2 years, 6 months ago

Cutting teachers and hurting students; all while no one in the ISC loses their jobs? Fire 75% of the ISC and quality of education would go up!

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ssilover1 2 years, 6 months ago

I guess you can't read either. Go back to school so you can learn to read and process.

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Ashley 2 years, 6 months ago

Insulting me makes you look like an idiot. Hundreds of teachers are being fired but not one bureaucrat. My child will be crammed into a classroom and ignored.

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

It is funny, you have called two people an idiot on here. No teachers have been fired due to the budget. Postitions at the ISC have not been filled and will not exist next year.

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

ssilover, why are you so hostile? Are you or your spouse one of these upper level GCPS administrators that should be on the chopping block? Is your vacation home on SSI in jeopardy when that 6 figure salary is eliminated?

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ptm4936 2 years, 6 months ago

$100 million in reserves and you are furloughing teachers and increasing class size? Isn't this the reason you have reserves or contingency funds? What's wrong with this picture?

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micronmike 2 years, 6 months ago

$100 million would be gone if they did not furlough teachers and increase class sizes. If it were used now, they would risk cutting bad checks made between now and next November.

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

Sthrnldy mentioned something that stuck out. Educating such a diverse population does have to be expensive. ESOL and translaters needed to communicate regarding student performance, training that is being demanded so when don't offend cultures. I am sure that there are many positions from the schools all the way to the county office that deal solely with immigrants needs.

GCPS advertises being a World class school system, but at what cost? The price tag must be steep.

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jack 2 years, 6 months ago

Maybe we need another E-SPLOST to pay for the stuff created by the first E-SPLOST.

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

We just did that on the last one - REALLY!!! (Smiles)

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OutofMoney 2 years, 6 months ago

Even though the board knew there would be short and they still made new positions at the ISC as well as continue to build schools when others are not fully utilized. JAW's continues to grow his staff getting him further and further away from the public who pays his massive salary. The entire GCPS has so many levels of management it is mind boggling. This is bigger than most Fortune 500 companies levels.

Reduce from the top in all departments. Just start with the picture with this article. You talk about a waste.

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HonestIngine 2 years, 6 months ago

Yes, they did create 5 new positions. GCPS is a government within a government(Gwinnett County) and it will continue to grow and grow at the taxpayers expense.

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

Need a place to park the FEDERAL level DOE applicants and new hires so we can continue to get FED grant funding. And the school is the LARGEST EMPLOYER in Gwinnett so ...

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cannot_believe_it 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree! We have soooo many needless levels of staffing at the ISC....wish i could get one of those jobs....

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slumlord 2 years, 6 months ago

i am picking 3 foreclosures and turning them into rentals next week. I should get at least 12 more kids into your guvmimt schools. haha

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R 2 years, 6 months ago

Only renting one house huh?

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

slumlord is not far off base as to what is happening. People that want out of Gwinnett that can not or will not sell in this lously market are renting their homes and moving out of the county or moving to an area in the Northern (percived better) parts of the county. Dekalb is literally turning into Gwinnett. The APS cheating scandal and fiasco in Dekalb schools has people doing all sorts of crazy things to get their kids into GCPS.

Parents are looking better for their children, but that doesn't mean that these are the best and brightest of students we are getting. GCPS is accepting students purely for numbers and federal money. GCPS is starting to become quantity over quality. Just watch the scores!

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Gundoctor1 2 years, 6 months ago

I know for sure that three bus's come in my neighborhood and one of them has one child. "One child"??????? Another has very few, and then the last one has just a couple of kids on it. Is something wrong here? Probably not, keep on throwing that money away, this bunch in Washington can always just print you some more.

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WorldClass 2 years, 5 months ago

Did you know that GCPS principals, in addition to their handsome salaries, get an additional $7.85 supplement per student enrolled at their school? Parents do NOT enroll students at a school based on who the principal is. With all the looming budget cuts, increased class sizes, and furlough days, maybe Wilbanks and his staff at the ISC should seriously consider eliminating this perk and use the funds to hire another teacher!

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Ashley 2 years, 5 months ago

Principals are seriously overpaid in all aspects.

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