MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Thursday night, parents, teachers and even students pled with the Bibb County School District to think twice about cutting teachers, counselors and assistant principals from county schools.
Perhaps the most touching of the public comments came from a group of Rutland Middle School triplets, who are all seventh graders. Fighting back tears, they begged the board to keep their school counselor on the district's payroll.
The board put off a decision until Tuesday that would have increased the number of students that are assigned to each counselor.
After the public's input, it was obvious to board members that school counselors are very important to students.
"The board is sensitive to those needs," says board president, Dr. Wanda West. "I even had a teacher to share with me that they would be willing even to take another furlough day if it took it in order for us to keep the counselors in place."
The board also voted Thursday to make May 28 a furlough day for the entire school system. That's the Tuesday after Memorial Day. That move will save the district money in this school year's budget so that the hole isn't as deep for next fiscal year's budget.
For the past few weeks, the district has been working to erase a projected $18 million budget deficit for the upcoming year.
At the district's last budget workshop, the board asked the administration to propose more cuts in the central office, rather than focusing on positions within schools. Thursday, the board was presented two revised budget options.
The first proposed a millage rate increase of 0.48, which would result in less money coming out of the general fund balance. The second proposed no tax increase, but that would mean more money would have to come from reserves to help fill the gap.
Both proposals called for a 48% reduction in cabinet salaries. They both asked for the elimination of all four zone superintendent positions and a reduction in salaries for the five deputy superintendent positions.
Also on the chopping block in both proposals is the Macon Miracle's Mandarin Chinese program, but district administrators told the board that the Confucious Institute would be able to still fund part of the program.
The board is expected to approve a reduction in force plan, which could affect dozens of employees, at its meeting on Tuesday.