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Henry BOE sixth in state for cumulative state cuts

McDONOUGH — The Henry County Board of Education has decried state funding cuts for more than a decade, pointing to millions in austerity reductions.

Former board chairman Ray Hudalla regularly insisted state cuts were a detriment to the local school board and its ability to fund its education programs.

A report released recently by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute echoed Hudalla’s sentiments. Claire Suggs is the institute’s senior education policy analyst and author of the report, which named Henry sixth on a list of the state’s 20 school districts with the largest cumulative funding cuts since 2003.

Financial Services Assistant Superintendent Jeff Allie said the cuts require districts to consider other ways to fill budget gaps such as instituting unpaid furlough days for employees.

“The report issued by GBPI clearly portrays the financial squeeze that Georgia school districts are up against while they try to improve student achievement,” said Allie.

The Georgia legislature has cut state funding by $182 million since 2003, he said, adding the district anticipates a $26 million cut this year.

“Only five school districts in the state have experienced larger cuts in state funding,” he said. “Meanwhile, local property values have declined by more than 30 percent since 2008.”

Property tax revenue declined $42 million from 2009 to 2012, according to school data. Henry’s tax digest decreased by 2 percent in 2009, 15 percent in 2010, 7 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2012.

Allie said the district has been enacting budget cutting measures since the 2008-09 school year in response to the revenue declines.

“Larger class sizes, shortened school calendar and furlough days put a tremendous strain on the district as we continue the work to improve student achievement,” said Allie. “Despite the unprecedented cuts to public school funding, our administrators, teachers and staff remain focused on the district’s primary mission of teaching and learning.”