Mathews to release list of possible budget cuts

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Although a holiday break starts next week for students and many staff members in the Newton County School System, some top-level officials will be busy discussing budget options for the next school year.

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews and his staff are developing a list of possible major budget reductions that Mathews plans to unveil to principals and central office administrators on Jan. 10.

He already has warned that the school system may have to seek up to $9 million in cuts, mainly from personnel since it makes up more than 87 percent of the general fund budget, due to expected state cuts to education.

Mathews warned during the Newton County Board of Education's monthly meeting Tuesday that even more cuts are possible, according to rumblings from state officials.

"It may end up escalating," he said. "But I hope not."

After revealing to his staff more than $9 million in possible cuts, he plans to gather input from the staff, school councils and other educational stakeholders.

"I seek this input because it is our public school system," he said.

From Jan. 11 through noon on Feb. 4, school principals will survey school councils, which generally are made up of business leaders, parents and employees. They will rank the list of potential cuts and try to reach a consensus on particular items.

"This is strictly input," Mathews said. "It's not the highest vote wins ... but we will strictly consider it."

Additionally, Mathews will hold a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Alcovy High School to survey educational stakeholders.

"We'd like to hear any novel or new ideas," he said.

At 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in the Newton County BOE board room, PTO presidents from each school are expected to meet for a roundtable discussion to gain input.

"We will need real feedback on real possibilities," Mathews said. "We will not float items just to gain public attention or to rally the troops, so to speak."

A survey also will be placed at www.newtoncountyschools.org.

From there, the superintendent and his executive leadership team will consider items and make a list of tentative cuts, Mathews said. He expects to present a proposal to the school board in February or March for the board to consider until April. The board is expected to approve a tentative budget in May and a final budget in June; school systems in Georgia have until May 15 to extend contracts to teachers.

"None of (the decisions) are easy -- they are all hard," Mathews said. "We are trying to be as transparent as we can in a very difficult budget scenario. It's going to be very challenging."