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Pharis lays out plan that cuts out all library funding

As expected, Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis is not including a single dime for the funding of Roddenbery Memorial Library as he and his administrative staff begin the tough task of developing an operating budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Should the school board back the superintendent it would be the first time since 1944 that the school system has not contributed funding to the renowned public library.
In the current fiscal year, the school board adopted a budget that reduced $36,000 from library funding and as the budget picture worsens for the school system Dr. Pharis says he has little choice other than to totally eliminate the remaining $100,000 the school system has invested in the library this fiscal year.
Library Director Alan Kaye and Assistant Director Janet Boudet were in attendance Tuesday night to hear Pharis’ budget update.
Although the superintendent is not prepared to make a recommendation on library funding or other projected cuts, he told board members this week these cuts will likely be included in his proposed budget.
Dr. Pharis emphasized the need for the board to make tough choices now and build the budget with significant cuts now so that “hopefully” the system will be able to absorb the additional state cuts to public education that school system officials statewide are expecting in the next fiscal year.
“Are we at the point where the budget cuts are hurting? Absolutely!” Pharis said.
Director Kaye told board members, “I support you in what you are doing and you have supported us through the years and I know you want to continue to support us.”
The library director also voiced his appreciation for the board not considering this as a permanent action.
“No one is talking about the agreement with the city and the county. You are talking about immediate needs. However, these cuts do create a situation where we will get a lot of questions about is it fair to the city and county for you to sit out for a year, two or three. I don’t think you are talking about leaving the agreement and I am glad of that,” Kaye said.
Complicating the issue for the library staff is the fact that the city and county will not likely discuss changes to library funding until the service delivery strategy is renegotiated in 2011 and any changes to that agreement would not be put in place until 2012.
“If the city and county think there is no hope you will restore the relationship then we’ve got a big question—where does the responsibility of local funding for the library go?” Kaye asked.
The library director said his plan to survive without school system funding is to request the city not charge the library for utilities and to cover the expense of grounds maintenance. That combined with some cash reserves the library has accumulated would allow the public library to operate through September 2011, but at that time the reserves would be exhausted and the library would be “insolvent” according to Kaye.
“We could not pay our bills and the library as we have known it would no longer be in existence,” Kaye predicted.
The library director noted that Dr. Pharis had stated he was looking at a minimum of $400,000 in additional cuts to budget line items, but the cuts he had identified currently stood at $455,000.
“If your minimum requirement is $400,000 and you’ve cut $455,000, that would be $55,000 you could use to fund the library. That would be a big help,” Kaye said.
The superintendent in response noted that no matter where the additional cuts came from the impact would be large and people would not be happy.
“I’m not happy about these cuts. But we have to remember what our focus is and that is our school system personnel, our instructional program and school safety. Our system has taken some very big cuts. I have to look at teachers who’ve we already cut five days and may have to cut some more. I can’t recommend putting money back into library funding. When we have money to put back in we need to be putting back into instruction,” Dr. Pharis told board members.
In addition to the likely cuts to the library, Dr. Pharis is looking to eliminate $150,000 from instructional budgets; cut out $80,000 for after school and remediation; elimination of $25,000 from the operating budget to cover fuel for athletic, band, and academic trips; knock off $10,000 from maintenance; shave $50,000 off of utilities expense; and reduce professional development by $40,000.
The school superintendent is attempting to craft a budget that will not require additional pay cuts for school system personnel, but the $950,000 that was cut from school personnel compensation this year will not be restored in the upcoming fiscal year budget.
Dr. Pharis is also looking to cut an additional 15 to 20 certificated personnel and reduce the classified personnel workforce by 10 to 15 positions.
“I want to avoid a large reduction in force if at all possible and I think we can do it if we make some cuts early and not later,” Dr. Pharis said.
The board will continue to work with the administrative staff to draft the budget, but board members will not finalize the spending plan until later this fall once school officials have a clearer picture as to the amount of revenues to be generated by ad valorem taxes.

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