RCPS could add 10 furlough days to school calendar

CONYERS -- Staff members at Rockdale County Public Schools could lose up to 10 days of pay next school year due to anticipated reductions in state and local revenues.

RCPS Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis told members of the Rockdale County Board of Education during a finance meeting Thursday that the administration is discussing adding between five and 10 staff furlough days to the calendar next school year to make up for an expected loss of revenues.

Last week, Davis said RCPS anticipated a possible $9.5 million reduction in local and state revenues due to a decline in student enrollment as well as a decline in the local property tax digest.

He informed the board Thursday night that the reduction might not be quite as bad as originally thought -- state revenues might be down only $280,000 instead of $1.5 million and RCPS might earn about $1 million more than expected for special training and experience funding, but local property tax revenues still are expected to be down about $4.6 million.

"We still are not out of the woods, but it's not as bad as we initially thought," Davis said, adding that RCPS has yet to receive 2012-13 school year allotment information from the state.

He said the system still is expected to be more than $6 million out of balance beginning the school year if more cuts aren't made. Already, RCPS is expecting to lose 58 staff positions, but most of that is anticipated being lost through resignations, retirement and natural attrition instead of layoffs.

"Once we make staff cuts, the only way to cut is to reduce the calendar," he said.

An internal budget committee was expected to meet Friday, and a calendar committee has discussed a blend of student instructional and teacher work days to propose to the board at a later undetermined date if the administration finds it necessary to cut school days.

Earlier this year, the school board approved a full year calendar with 180 student days and 190 teacher days.

Davis said at one point recently, he had recommended to the administration that 10 calendar days be cut from the budget, but it may end up being closer to five days to protect instructional time.

"It will be as low as we can possibly get it," Davis said.

"I'd love to have 180 (days of school)," RCPS Superintendent Sam King said during the meeting.

Each calendar reduction day saves between $500,000 and $550,000, according to RCPS.

Davis expected to hear more about state budget figures later this week.

"I'll never be surprised at what the state hands down to us," he said. "I could do estimates ... but until we get that final number, we don't know what number we've got to have."

Teacher contracts are expected back Monday, 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.