COLUMBUS, Ga. — Muscogee County School Board members have a tough task in creating a balanced budget over the next couple of weeks. They have until July 1 to create a budget for the upcoming school year.
Currently, the tentative budget is hovering at more than $250,000,000. It calls for cuts in the fund balance from 62 days to 36 days.This represents how long the school district can operate without any revenue streaming in. News 3 spoke with two board members at odds over funding the budget.
District 7 board member Cathy Williams says the school district is on the mend, recovering after feeling the effects of years of recession.
“We intentionally lowered our fund balance in order to take advantage of the new funding we’ve gotten from the state to give teachers and all of my employees basically raises,” Williams said. “Now that those purse strings are starting to loosen just a little bit, we can try to start climbing out of the hole back to normal.”
However, district 8 board member Frank Myers believes those in favor of the tentative budget for the upcoming school year fail to see the proper priorities.
“What we’ve got with this budget is the same old story, the same old thing we’ve been doing over and over again, which is not working,” Myers told News 3. “And I’m not talking about humongous percentage changes in the budget. I’m talking about shifting money over and starting some programs that actually work.”
Myers says the school district is “swimming in money.” In his opinion, a lack of money is not the problem.
“We’ve got plenty of money,” Myers said, “The idea and excuse people use that people don’t see enough money in public education…I will assure you in Muscogee County, we have plenty of money in education. Our problem is where we’re not prioritizing that money correctly.”
He believes the budget should reflect more community involvement in the school district at the local level. And while board members can agree on the problem, they’ll race against the clock to come up with a possible solution.
“I think everyone just wants to make sure we’re using any new funds prudently, that we’re ensuring there’s pay equity within the system, that the children that come to us for public education get the best we can possibly deliver,” Williams said.
Williams says the board is working to prevent cuts to alternative education programs, as well as school closures like Marshall Middle School. This year, most school faculty members will earn a 2% pay increase. Next year, they will also get a state-mandated 2% salary bump.