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Advocates urge BOC to support adult literacy
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The first of two public hearings required before commissioners can adopt the county's 2015 budget brought out a handful of speakers in support of adult literacy.

The proposed $21.66 million spending plan, presented by Commission Chairman Mike Berg on Oct. 23, recommends a reduction of funding to three social service agencies: Reading Education Association of Dawson County , or R.E.A.D., Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates and No One Alone, N.O.A.

Representatives for R.E.A.D. urged the commission to continue its monetary support of the organization, which provides educational classes and support through Lanier Technical College's Adult Learning Center. The current year's budget included $750 in funding to R.E.A.D.

Mike Ziegenbalg, chairman of the R.E.A.D. board, highlighted the need for adult education in communities.

"We know that adult education is an important component for any county that wants a literate workforce and wants a literate community," he said. "I don't think it's any surprise that businesses that are looking to relocate to Dawson County most certainly look for the availability of a literate workforce as one of its determining factors."

He also reminded the commission about READ's role in providing adult education, specifically GED preparation, for inmates incarcerated in the Dawson County jail.

"That's something that we fund directly. It does cost $160 for students to do such, so the funds we get from you don't even cover five students a year, and we've already done 12 this past year," he said.
"With every student getting their GED, not only does it give them hope of a brighter future, it also helps build their self-esteem.

"We respectfully ask that the county continue its financial support in adult literacy and consider designating the funds if nothing else, just to the detention center inmates."

Sharon Clark, lead instructor, explained the center's mission of preparing students for the next step of higher education.

"We need to do everything we can to educate the under educated and help them get where they need to be so they can be successful for themselves and for their families," she said.

Commissioners are reviewing the proposed budget and can make suggestions, though it's likely any changes would be zero-based since they voted in July to keep the millage the same at 8.138 mills, with no increase and no roll-up.

A second hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 in the assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center, after which the commission can adopt the budget.