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Georgetown County school board OK's budget

The Georgetown County School Board approved a $68.3 million 2010-2011 budget that includes $3.6 million in cuts, the loss of eight teaching positions and about a dozen support personnel positions.

The cuts were needed to make up for a reduction in state funding, according to district officials.

The lost positions don't necessarily represent people who have been laid off, because the district has been able to shift employees to other jobs through resignations and retirements.

Overall, the district has laid off one teacher and 11 other support positions that include career specialists and technical assistants.

"It's like a game of chess," said director of human resources Marthena Grate-Morant.

By shifting some American Recovery Reinvestment Act funds, the district was able to fund an additional 18 positions, according to the budget the school board approved Tuesday.

In another cost-saving measure the school board also voted to waive state-mandated teacher salary increases. The state legislature approved allowing school districts to freeze wages and the bill was signed by the Gov. Mark Sanford May 28.

This measure saved the district $900,000, said director of finance Lisa Johnson.

"We looked at every line item, every position to try to make it work," Johnson said.

As part of the budget, the board also eliminated tuition reimbursement, saving about $75,000, cut the teacher center saving about $25,000 and reduced the number of contract services and rentals, saving about $85,000.

School district officials cautioned board members, that when the stimulus funds run out in 2011, the district is expected to face a shortfall of more than $6 million.

The problem for school districts in South Carolina is compacted due to Act 388.

The legislation restricts a school district's ability to tax owner-occupied homes for operating expenses such as teacher salaries and textbooks.

About 56 percent of the district's budget goes to paying school-level employees, according to a presentation at the school board meeting Tuesday.

"There is only so much revenue, " said superintendant Randy Dozier.

"We are investing almost every dollar we have in teachers...most of what we do is allocated to schools."

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