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Education: District trims estimate of job losses in budget

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

As the Georgetown County School District prepares to send out employee contracts for the coming year, it has lowered its estimate of the impact budget cuts will have on jobs, according to Superintendent Randy Dozier.

The district will lose $6.1 million in federal stimulus funds that paid for 122 positions. The district initially estimated that 45 to 55 jobs would be lost. That number is now 20 to 25, Dozier said.

“It’s the same as last year, but by August we were able to place most of them,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure everybody’s placed.”

A meeting for prospective retirees filled the board room in the district office last month, according to Marthena Grate-Morant, the district human resources director. Contracts go out next week.

Along with retirement creating vacancies, Dozier said a new phenomenon creates openings: people who don’t show up for work on the first day of school. “There’s not a lot, but if you have two or three, it’s problematic,” he said. Those people accept district contracts, but take jobs somewhere else without letting the district know, he explained.

By freezing some spending in this year’s $68.3 million operating budget, and shifting funds between budget categories, the district was able to close the shortfall to $2 million. It covered that with a one-time transfer of funds and a variety of spending cuts. The school board reinstated two of those cuts: funding middle school sports and a summer arts program for gifted and talented students.

Some positions that became vacant during the year were not filled because of drops in enrollment, Dozier said.

The district has the option of raising property taxes on non-residential property by 1.7 percent, but Dozier said he will recommend the school board fund any remaining shortfall from the district’s $7.8 million reserve fund.

That could be replenished by other savings over the course of the year, he said.

“If the state gives you a little more money, like they did this year, you’ll probably be OK,” Dozier said. “Things seem to be improving.”

And he told the school board last month that he believes there’s enough money in his travel budget to fund an electronic document system for the members and district staff. That is estimated to cost up to $8,500, but provide $23,000 a year in savings.

“Talking to some of my colleagues, we’re being left behind,” Dozier said.

Georgetown County Council and the Planning Commission have used electronic files for several years. So has the board of the Georgetown County Water and Sewer District.

“We’re lagging behind,” Dozier said. Worse than that, “you should see my desk.”

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