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Jackson County Public School administrators preparing for budget crisis

By Lauren Gray
On April 8, 2011

Administrators with the Jackson County Public School system are warning their teachers and principals the state budget crisis will have a serious impact on schools. School administrators say the nearly $4 billion state budget crisis could result in millions of dollars in cutbacks and the loss of faculty and staff positions.

School officials are also saying the state's budget crisis combined with the loss of stimulus money and previous cutbacks will force schools to look for new and creative ways to provide the same level of service.

Gwen Edwards, the Jackson County Public Schools Finance Coordinator, said, "No one knows what the budget will be yet, but we have been planning on this for a while."

With the state budget still in the unknown area because no official numbers have been released, all of the school systems are having a hard time knowing exactly what will happen for the upcoming year. Edwards is assuring everyone that they are continuing to do everything possible. The budget is still in the process of being worked on, so with the majority of money coming from the state and not knowing what the budget is, the administrators do not know what is going on yet.

For the past couple of years there have been big budget cuts, but stimulus federal money came in to help. That, however, is gone now so there will be a bigger hole with funding for the school system since there is outside money to replace state money losses.

Potential problems for areas of budget cuts could be the state not paying for worker's compensation for school employees, replacing school buses and providing tort insurance for school buses, which gives financial aid if someone gets hurt on a state school bus.

Edwards explained that, "We don't know how much worker's comp will be because we've never had to pay for that. The school bus replacement cost will not affect us this year, but we do have to replace two buses next year."

The biggest thing Jackson County Public Schools has been doing to prepare for the budget cuts has been, "when people leave or retire, we have not been replacing them because we knew the day would come when we would have to fire or not hire people," said Edwards.

As far as cutting positions for the school system, "We are really hoping we won't have to cut anyone. We have lost around 100 positions over the past couple of years and we're hoping that will be enough and we will make it through," Edwards said.

Edwards also explained, "The biggest thing we pay for is personnel costs, so what we have done to make sure we have money is not replace people as they leave. That's the biggest cost so that's the biggest thing we can do to save money."

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