School system to announce job cuts
Affected staff members to be informed Friday

COVINGTON - Officials with the Newton County School System plan to inform staff this week of personnel cuts for the 2009-10 school year.

In January, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley warned of the likelihood of a reduction in force. At its monthly work session Tuesday, the Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved Whatley's recommendation to move forward with a reduction of more than $4.2 million in personnel-related expenditures to offset anticipated revenue shortfalls due to future state cuts, the senior exemption tax and other possible tax and revenue reductions.

"We have been evaluating all program classifications and positions to determine the most responsible financial means by which services can be provided, yet trying to bring about additional savings to the system," Whatley said in a memo to the school board. "Cuts will be made in system level and school level positions, both certified and classified, and some work days will be reduced."

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration, said Wednesday that the school system isn't releasing any specific numbers of staff cuts until after school officials have meetings with affected staff members on Friday.

"It's only fair," she said.

She said the school system hopes some staff will be reduced through attrition as employees decide to retire or leave for other reasons, but officials are likely to have to reduce the staff that is left.

"(Some staff members) might want to look at other options and see what may be out there," she said, adding that the board wanted to approve Whatley's recommendation during the work session, rather than wait until the Feb. 24 regular session meeting, in order to give affected employees enough time to prepare and possibly plan over winter break next week.

Robertson said Tuesday during the board meeting that the cuts aren't as deep as they could have been - in addition to the cuts from this year's budget and savings on lower fuel costs, she said she is thankful that school and system staff this school year have been evaluating every purchase to determine what is absolutely needed.

"When we look around at other (school) districts, given the situation, we are much better off," said school board Chairman C.C. Bates. "It's due to everybody's hard work, and we really appreciate that."

Board member Cathy Dobbs said the problem isn't affecting only the state of Georgia - it's a nationwide issue.

"Many are going to four-day work weeks and other extremes," she said. "They are barely able to open their doors."

Robertson said this may not be the end of the cuts for 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years and beyond.

"We don't know what the state dollars are going to be for (fiscal year) 2010 yet," she said. "It's tough trying to pinpoint."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.