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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese talks after a Catoosa County Commission meeting at the Catoosa County administrative building on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Ringgold, Ga. Commissioners voted unanimously to donate about 5 acres of land to the Catoosa County Board of Education.

Teachers, administrators and staff at Catoosa County Schools have been told to expect a 5.5% cut in salary as the school district prepares for a $12.6 million budget cut due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Denia Reese said the only way to manage the significant cuts in state funding was to reduce payroll.

In order to do that, the district will be changing its calendar for the next school year. Students will have five fewer instructional days and five teacher in-service days will be eliminated.

That means all Catoosa County Schools employees' salaries will be reduced by 10 days.

The 10-day cut should save the district $4.7 million. The district will also be getting$1.6 million in federal relief funds from the CARES Act.

"With this current reduction in calendar days, every employee takes a reduction in their salary, so we can maintain all employees' jobs and benefits, and we can maintain programs for students," Reese said.

The district also will use $5 million from its reserves to help offset cuts. The district has $15 million total in its reserves now.

On May 1, the state gave notice to all agencies to prepare for a 14% budget cut due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

For Catoosa County Public Schools, this funding cut will be at least $12.6 million.

Statewide, the Georgia Department of Education estimates the proposed cuts for the fiscal year starting in July at $1.6 billion.

Reese said the school board understands that many people in Catoosa County have lost their jobs and struggled financially. She added the board will not have to increase property taxes to handle the budget shortfall.

"While the board regrets reducing employee work days, employees will continue to earn their same daily rate of pay each day they work," Reese said in a statement.

In Walker County, Superintendent Damon Raines said Friday the school board started to talk about what it would do at Tuesday's planning session but no final decision has been made on how the district will handle the budget cuts.

School in Catoosa County is still scheduled to start Aug. 10.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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