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Morgan schools facing budget cuts to obey new law

By Bayne Hughes
DAILY Education Writer 340-2432

The suggestion that school boards have at least one month of operating expenses in their savings account is no longer a suggestion, and Morgan County must work to meet what is now state law.

The Morgan County school system ended the 2005 fiscal year in September with $2.8 million in reserves, but Finance Director Rodger Spillers said he expects reserves to drop to about $1.5 million before the end of the 2006 fiscal year.

Spillers said the school system needs about $4.2 million in reserves to fulfill the new law.

With the school board making its end-of-the-school-year personnel moves at Tuesday night's meeting, Superintendent Don Murphy said the combination of retirements, resignations and contract
non-renewals freed about 36 teacher units.

The school system is also gaining 13 state-funded units.

"We're not going to cut 49 units," Murphy told the school board. "But we need to be very careful on how many we do fill and not overextend ourselves."

Murphy said the state is increasing funding for transportation and other current expenses, but the state Legislature approved a 5 percent employee pay raise. He said the board must decide whether to begin the raise in July or at the start of the fiscal year in October. The board started a 7 percent raise last year in July, and it cost the school system about $300,000.

After the meeting, Murphy said he doesn't believe the school board would have a difficult time reaching the state requirement. "When people start saying we've gotta have this position, we'll have to make some hard decisions," he said.

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