BOE Approves Budget, Furloughs
The district might have to dip into reserves to offset Cherokee Charter Academy's impact.
Ever since the state Board of Education approved Cherokee Charter Academy, one question has lingered: What impact will it have on the county school system?
Tonight, just before the Cherokee County Board of Education approved a $527 million budget that includes four unpaid furlough days for all district employees, Cherokee Superintendent Frank Petruzielo spelled it out.
"There really are five options that are available to the board," he said.
In order to make up what Petruzielo estimated will be a $2 million to $3 million hit to the district's coffers, the board will have to consider one of the following budget amendments:
- Decrease reserves from $35.2 million to $32.2 million.
- Increase employee furlough days from four to seven.
- Delay annual longevity step increases until January 2012.
- Layoff about 55 teachers and request additional state waivers to increase class size.
- Raise the maintenance and operations millage rate from 19.45 to 20 mills.
"We have bad to worse to worst to really bad and awful here," Post 2 school board member Mike Chapman said.
No one supported additional cuts to the classroom. And though Post 4 representative Janet Read wasn't a supporter of dipping into reserves, a move that could impact the district's credit rating, the rest of the board decided to go with that option because it impacts students and teachers the least.
"The board really cares tremendously about what happens to employees," Petruzielo said. "And I think that resonated here this evening. I haven't heard one board member suggest we ought to further balance the budget on the backs of employees."
Cherokee Charter Academy will not have final enrollment numbers until after its Aug. 15 opening, said organizer Lyn Michaels-Carden.
"It is still our intent to open with 995 students," she said.
The last list that Cherokee County School District officials saw came to a total of about 770 students. About 75 to 80 percent attended a district school during the 2010-11 school year, Petruzielo said.
"We will come back to the board as soon as we have closure on the impact of the charter school," he said. "As soon as that happens, we'll report how that has affected reserves for this coming year."
Before the meeting, which was held at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium, the public was given a chance to offer its input on the budget.
No one signed up to speak.
Facing more than $26 million in state austerity cuts, district employees will have to take four unpaid furlough days for the second year in a row.
Open the PDF on this page to view the budget.