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School board cuts student calendar
Year shortened by at least two days
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It could be weeks before the Dawson County Board of Education approves next year’s budget, but the trimming to prepare for hard times has begun.


Most recently, officials cut costs at their April 11 meeting.


The school board voted 3-0 to reduce the 2011-12 student calendar by two days, a measure that will save an estimated $30,000. Board member Doris Cook was absent.


The reduction in student days from 180 to 178 will not have a negative impact on the learning environment, said Will Wade, board chairman.


“It’s a slight decrease,” Wade said. “We felt like it was the prudent thing to do for all parties involved as a way to try and meet the kids’ needs without reducing too many days, but also trying to find a way to cut a few dollars from the budget.”


Superintendent Keith Porter made the recommendation to the board with mild apprehension.


“I think y’all know my philosophy about trying to maintain the 180-day calendar as long as we possibly could,” Porter said.


The superintendent explained that he doesn’t like to see the number of days dip below the 180-day mark out of consideration for student learning time.


The measure, however, would save money and allow teachers more professional learning days. Under the approved 2011-12 calendar, teachers will be at school 184 days.


More cuts to the 2012 budget could be on the way as the board wrestles with a projected deficit of about $300,000.


Officials met March 31 to discuss options for the budget, which finance director Jamie Ulrich said could include $4.3 million less in funding.


Cuts at the state level, combined with a projected 12-percent drop in the tax digest, mean an ending fund balance that’s in the red, according to Ulrich.


The board may consider raising the millage rate.


“We’ve cut and cut and cut, and now we’re in a position where we want to still be able to provide the education we want to Dawson County,” Porter said.


“[A millage hike] is something we definitely have to have on the table as we discuss this in coming weeks.


The board has not raised the millage rate — which stands at 13.646 mills for maintenance and operations and .4 mills for bonds — in several years.


A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Assessed value is 40 percent of actual market value.