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TCSS faces $1.8M structural deficit in upcoming budget

Troup County School System Chief Financial Officer Scott Burckbuchler warned the board of education about its upcoming $1.8 million structural budget deficit looming in the spring.

Burckbuchler said the challenge every year with creating a balanced budget is making the revenues and expenditures match, but in the school system’s case, it’s more of a challenge because of the $1.8 million discrepancy.

“And that’s not a one-time thing,” he said. “That’s year after year after year.”

Burckbuchler said the school board will need to carefully scrutinize the budget this year and make those numbers come closer together.

“This is not the federal government. We shouldn’t be running a deficit from year to year to year,” he said. “We should be balancing our budget.”

Burckbuchler did reference the current COVID-19 outbreak affecting the school system, the state and entire country by saying he doesn’t know how it affects them in the long run. TCSS has shut down all schools until March 31 due to an executive order signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. The board of education will meet Thursday to discuss any potential longer shutdown during a virtual meeting streamed on LaGrange TV. Superintendent Brian Shumate said the meeting has been moved to the LaGrange City Council Chambers for streaming capacities to practice social distances, which has been recommended by the state department of public health and the Center for Disease Control.

Beyond the COVID-19 concerns, Burckbuchler said the district still needs to prepare for potential wage increases for educators by the State Legislature. Kemp has said he wants to give every teacher in the state a $2,000 salary increase. The Georgia House of Representatives has proposed a $1,000 raise. A decision has not been made at the state level.

“I think that we’re in a period of uncertainty as to that scenario, but I think we have to plan ahead and make sure that we budget for that if salary increases are provided by the General Assembly and approved by the governor,” Burckbuchler said.

Shumate said 80 percent of the school system’s budget is staff, payroll taxes and paying into the retirement system. Additionally, he said the school pays about $12,000 a year in insurance per employee.

“We are looking around at any contractual relationship that doesn’t make sense any longer or any that are too expensive to maintain,” Shumate said.

He said the district will look at everything it can but the real answer to cutting expenditures is in personnel.

“We’ll have to take a closer look to try and lean out a little bit and make sure we have people functioning in the highest levels in the position they are in,” Shumate said. “Without having too much duplicity and all the things that have been brought up in the past.”

He said those that expenditure issues must be faced before the board deals with any potential revenue decreases.

Shumate said he’ll present a draft budget package to the board in April.