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Mathews warns of cuts to state, federal programs

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews said more cuts may come to the system's prekindergarten and special education programs next school year.

He sent an e-mail to employees Wednesday morning detailing some more possibilities of cuts in addition to the nearly $8.3 million the school board recently approved for NCSS to cut from its general fund budget for next school year.

"I pray not, but it is a distinct possibility and one that will have to be faced in other school systems throughout Georgia and elsewhere," he said in his e-mail. "Rather than not say it, I am being earnest with you as we look ahead."

He said this week that Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed cuts to pre-K education in Georgia by reducing the year from 180 days to 160 days, but it would expand the program by 2,000 students.

NCSS already expects to receive $3.1 million less in state revenues for next school year.

"At this time, we hope that the Georgia General Assembly will not further negatively impact the operations of our public schools, but that remains to be seen," Mathews said in his e-mail. "Thus, we continue to follow these proceedings closely."

In addition to more state losses, NCSS also may lose more than nearly $2 million already projected in lost revenues from the federal government.

Mathews said Congress is debating cuts to special education and Title 1 schools to reduce the nation's budget deficit.

"As for special education, it is unclear to me at present what cuts, if any, in this area would mean for NCSS," Mathews said. "But I can say that if cuts were to come in federally funded special education, then it may be that such cuts have to be accounted for in our general fund, especially if such cuts impact the implementation of federally mandated student (individualized education plans)."

He said it appears that Title I funds would be taken to 2008 funding levels, meaning that NCSS could lose more than $1 million in Title I funding. Schools receiving Title I funding have a high economically disadvantaged student population, which is determined based on the number of free and reduced lunches a school gives.

"At this time, I am working with other administrators for a contingency plan for Title I should this cut actually materialize," Mathews said.

More information might be available by April, he said.

NCSS must issue teacher contracts no later than May 15, according to state regulations.