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Georgia Schools Prepare for Sequestration

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$85 million dollars in cuts, half military, half domestic, will begin to kick in starting Friday.

The programs to be affected by Sequestration are too many to count, but one area to see a major impact is local schools.

The Georgia Board of Education told school districts to prepare a year ago.

Back in 2012, the board said sequestration may be coming, and its time to prepare now.

They recommended slicing budgets early, by as much as 9% of their federal allocation.

So how much is that?

Starting next school year, sequestration is expected to cost Georgia schools as much as $17.5 million for special education programs.

That would be about 5% of the total federal revenue the state gets each year.

And experts feel that anywhere between 5-8% could be cut from federal school funds.

Those are programs that must be funded according to Federal law.

In 2013, Chatham County schools are due to receive more than $58 million in federal revenue.

That makes it the 3rd largest source of revenue for the district.

Right now the exact amount the district could lose is still not known. The federal government has not told states how much money will get cut.

But Chatham County School System is preparing.

"Know there is great potential for budgets that will be negatively impact many of the federal programs that are funded through revenues we receive," explained Savannah-Chatham County Schools Manager of Communications and Community Engagement Kurt Hetager. "That being said until we have specific info on those cutbacks we will be looking at every penny to make sure we are using it to maximize the current resources that are available and we are going to make decision in the best interest of our students."

Two programs were mentioned specifically, the 21st Century Learning programs and school food and nutrition.

But those are just possibilities, and budget talks for the 2013-2014 school year have just begun.

A full school budget for Chatham County must be finished by July 1.

In Effingham County the federal money which could be affected totals up to $295,000.

That, coupled with as the recent state funding cuts of as much as 10%, makes a big impact on the 32nd largest school system in Georgia.

School Superintendent Randy Shearhouse says Effingham County has been tightening their belts and budgets for years, to lessen the potential hit in the future.
 
"As folks retire or as they leave our system we haven't replaced them." explained Effingham County School Superintendent Randy Shearhouse. "So that's what I talked about as far as increasing the class size. We are able to absorb that. As far as teachers, they've done a great job taking on extra kids But you can only do that for so long and can only have so many kids in your classroom as well. So that's out only option at this point and its a tough decision."

Superintendent Shearhouse says 90% of Effingham County's school budget is wrapped up in salaries.

So teacher furloughs, program cuts, increasing class size and various other ideas are on the table. One thing that won't be taken away is the number of school days for kids and teachers, or the art and music programs.

Shearhouse adds that the Effingham County School System has been frugal over the years, and he hopes some carryover money from the past may help ease their potential budget pain.

But right now its all speculation, and until the exact numbers come down, everyone is waiting..and wondering.

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