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School district tightens budget
Plan adjusted for lag in growth, revenue
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Dawson County School Superintendent Nicky Gilleland described the district’s proposed 2009-10 budget as conservative in terms of growth and tax collections. 


“I didn’t allow for much growth, only 1.44 percent, because in 2008 our projections were too high,” Gilleland said. “We had several new staff hired (for 2008-09 school year), classrooms that books and materials were purchased for, and then those new children we had planned on gaining did not show up because of the downturn of the economy. We don’t want to make that mistake again.”


The proposed $36.2 million budget is an increase of about $12,000 from the year before. The board reviewed the proposal during its May 11 meeting.


A public hearing on the matter is set for  6 p.m. June 8. A vote could follow.


Eighty-five percent of the total budget goes to employee salaries and benefits.


“Many local systems are having to cut (employee) benefits to make their budgets work,” Gilleland said. “We have yet to cut any employee benefit to make ours work.”


Spending at the individual schools has also been slashed by more than $250,000.


“This is one area that we cannot take from anymore,” Gilleland said. “As budgets grow and the economy improves, we will have to come back and get the budget back in line.”


Gilleland said the board will not fill positions where employees have retired or resigned. He also doesn’t anticipate raising the millage rate.


“We are not expecting any millage increases, so we are going to do our best to make the budget work with the current revenues,” Gilleland said.


State funding to local school systems has declined steadily since 2003.


Dawson is in line for some federal stimulus money, which could help offset that drop-off, though the district must follow strict rules to receive it.


“Some organizations chose to not accept government funds because of the hoops you have to jump through, but we do not have that option,” said Gilleland, adding that any stimulus money would have to be spent carefully.


Board member Elaine Wilson agreed.


“If we start something new, we have to remember that it will be ours to pay for in two years when stimulus dollars are not there,” Wilson said.