RCPS expects $9.5 million revenue reduction

CONYERS -- Rockdale County Public Schools announced Friday its anticipation of a possible $9.5 million reduction in local and state revenues next school year and its plan to implement a reorganization and reduction in force with possibly more cuts to come.

The school system is estimating a reduction in state revenues of $1.1 million due to a decline in student enrollment for the 2012-13 school year.

Currently, 15,844 students are enrolled in RCPS, according to the most recent enrollment report from March 22. Before the school year began, system officials estimated 16,175 students were expected to be enrolled.

RCPS Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis reported Thursday during the work session that enrollment has increased since the beginning of the school year from 15,635 students at the lowest count on Aug. 26; however, enrollment is still down from last school year.

Next school year, enrollment is projected at 15,881 students, he said.

In addition to decreased state funding, RCPS is estimating an 8 percent, or $4.6 million, decline in the local property tax digest for next school year. Overall, RCPS expects a conservative estimated decrease of $9.5 million in revenues, but officials have "a great uncertainty" in the availability of state, federal and local funds for next school year, they reported.

The Rockdale County Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of a reorganization plan after an executive session during Thursday's monthly work session.

Included in the plan is the elimination of 58 certified employee positions, which could occur through resignations, retirements and other natural attritions for the 2012-13 school year, according to officials. Already this year, 32 certified staff submitted resignations and retirements in April, mostly effective for the end of the school year, as well as six in March and three in February, according to personnel reports.

The eliminations will take the place of the 69 fewer staff positions approved by the school board earlier this year.

"Eleven (teachers) were added back because of the late enrollment growth (this semester)," said Cindy Ball, director of Community Relations, on Friday.

When determining a reduction, RCPS will consider professional expertise, effectiveness and job performance reflected in annual evaluations, written communication to employees and the superintendent's observation and knowledge, according to the plan.

"(Teacher) contracts are due April 23, and then we'll analyze for vacancies, so we can move people according to certification if needed," Ball said Friday.

The reduction is expected to save nearly $4 million, she said.

The superintendent may need to implement more cuts in the future, according to the approved plan.

This school year, RCPS cut more than $9 million in programs, frozen positions and equipment. It also increased its millage rate by 1.51 mills, for a total of 24.5 mills.

For the rest of the month, school and system administrators are preparing and reviewing budget proposals at schools and for central office departments, and the budget committee will prepare a system budget, according to the budget calendar.

Staffing and salary schedules will be determined this month, and the school board is expected to adopt a tentative budget on May 17.

The board is expected to approve a final budget on June 14 and a millage rate in July or August.

The next public meeting for budget discussions is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14, in the board room at the RCPS central complex, which is located at 954 North Main St. in Conyers.