Gwinnett Schools Take Aim at $85 Million Shortfall
No teacher cuts, board member says. Also, reaction gauged on redistricting.
The Gwinnett County school system is finalizing its 2012 budget, and dealing with an $85 million revenue shortfall is not easy. But the system says cutting teacher jobs is not an option.
Dr. Mary Kay Murphy, a board member, said Monday that a slight increase in class size is among the measures most likely to be used by the system to make up the shortfall.
Murphy said a class-size level "two or three students" below state levels is being eyed by the board. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks is scheduled to make his recommendations to the budget office March 4. Copies of the proposed budget will be made available to the public April 26.
Murphy said some part-time teachers might not be re-employed until full-time positions are filled, and that some vacancies might not be filled if teachers leave the system.
Property taxes account for 49 percent of the system's funding, and that is an area that affects Gwinnett County in general.
On another matter, Murphy said she will be gauging public reaction and attending community meetings in connection with the redistricting that will shift students from the Peachtree Ridge cluster to the Duluth cluster. Mason Elementary and Hull Middle, part of the Peachtree Ridge cluster, are in Murphy's district.
Murphy attended a Duluth City Council work session Monday night. Council members told her they wanted back some of the stable, affluent residential communities that were once part of the Duluth cluster. They do not want apartments near Gwinnett Place Mall returned. They want areas closer to the city placed back in the Duluth cluster.
Also, the Gwinnett board is going on the road, meeting once in each board member's district. The meetings are a time for the board to share information with the public and for citizens to discuss education topics with their elected officials. CEO/Superintendent Wilbanks will present information on the school system's budget, goals and direction.
The meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the host school's theater. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. Citizens may attend any of the meetings. The District II meeting will be March 29 at Lanier High; the District III meeting will be March 31 at Norcross High.
Gwinnett's is the state's largest school system, with about 160,000 students. Murphy said the system is still growing, but at a slower rate than in past years. The system expects to add 2,000 students from May to August, as opposed to as many as 6,000 in past years.