Dalton, Ga. schools propose $4.6 million in cuts

Dalton, Ga. schools propose $4.6 million in cuts

April 12th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Dalton city schools attorney Henry Tharpe addresses the Dalton Board of Education in this file photo.

Dalton city schools attorney Henry Tharpe addresses the...

Photo by Mariann Martin /Times Free Press.

DALTON, Ga. - Officials with Dalton City Schools on Monday proposed reductions in employee salaries and administration and department costs, savings for the current year and taking money from the general fund to reach $4.6 million in cuts for the 2012 fiscal year.

Staff and transportation cuts were not on the list of recommendations, though officials had warned transportation may be cut.

School Superintendent Jim Hawkins outlined the proposed cuts to the Board of Education during its monthly meeting Monday. Board members are to vote on a preliminary targeted budget of $53 million in May and pass a final budget by June for the next school year.

Proposed salary reductions will save the school system $1.2 million, with 2 percent cuts for administrators, 1.2 percent for teachers, 1 percent for clerical and paraprofessionals and 0.5 percent for maintenance and operational staff, Hawkins said. Those cuts come on top of cuts made the previous years, he said.

The system plans to save $1.4 million by implementing hiring freezes, cutting travel and purchases and cutting from certain departments. Extracurricular transportation costs will be cut $50,000, or 50 percent, with the groups using transportation expected to fund the other half of the costs.

Another $1 million will come from savings in this year's budget because the system has only spent 61 percent of its projected budget so far this year. The final $1 million will come from the general fund, a one-time cut that would have to be made up next year, Hawkins said.

Hawkins cautioned that all cuts were only proposals based on projected numbers and could change if expenditures came in under projections.

"These are not guarantees," he said. "I don't want people to think there is no possibility of future cuts."

Officials had studied the possibility of cutting transportation in various ways, after cutting transportation to students living within 1/2 mile of school this year. Proposals included cutting transportation in a mile or 1 1/2-mile radius, as well as cutting transportation for high school students.

"The consequences are just too great," Hawkins told the board. "It was getting into the quality of life for students and parents."

Public safety and the danger of children missing school also were factors they considered before deciding not to cut transportation, Hawkins said.

Board Chairman Steve Williams called the budget proposals the best under the circumstances.

"I'm not happy, but I'm satisfied," he said. "This budget avoids staff cuts, and we are thankful for that."

In a Whitfield County Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Danny Hayes recommended changes for enrollment in the newly completed Coahulla Creek High School, according to school spokesman Eric Beavers.

Hayes recommended open enrollment for the new high school for grades nine, 10, 11 and 12 to allow more students to attend, Beavers said.

Current eighth-grade students zoned to attend North Whitfield Middle School must attend Coahulla Creek High School, but existing Northwest and Southeast high school students may choose to continue attending their current school.

Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at mmartin@timesfreepress.com or 706-980-5824.