MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Bibb County Board of Education adopted its fiscal year 2013 budget Thursday night.
After close to an hour of back and forth questions and concerns by several board members, the budget was passed with a narrow vote of 5-3.
Board member Gary Bechtel was one of the members who was the most outspoken against the budget. He grabbed his belongings and left the room as soon as the meeting was adjourned.
The budget was adopted with a deficit of $8 million.
The money to fill the gap will come from the district’s reserve fund, which has just under $16 million before the transfer and is expected to be drained within four years.
Lynn Farmer, one of the three board members to vote against the budget, says she voted ‘no’ because too much money is going into salaries at the central office and the board’s welcome center, and not enough is going directly into the classroom.
“When I have someone with a high school education making fifty something thousand a year to be a parent advocate, those positions all pay that,” says Farmer. “And yet a masters level teacher in the classroom is going to make less than that–that’s a problem to me. What does that say to our teachers, who are doing the real work of this system in educating children every day?”
A hot topic item in the budget was close to half a million dollars being set aside to pay contracted teachers to teach the Chinese language to the students of Bibb County, a part of Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s ‘Macon Miracle’ plan.
Farmer says some of those initiatives could have been put off for another year, but board member Tom Hudson disagrees.
“We have been delaying things too long,” says Hudson. “That’s the reason why we’re in the predicament that we’re in. You pay for what you get. If you spend a little you get a little in terms of our children being educated.”
School board president Tommy Barnes says the alternative to passing a budget with such a large deficit would have been to have a workforce reduction, add teacher furlough days, or raise taxes.
He says this year the board had to make a change.
“I don’t think we can continue to cut ourselves to the bone and do the exact same thing we did last year or the year before when we had a 50% graduation rate,” says Barnes. “We have to start at some point in time doing something differently.”
Along with Farmer, board members Gary Bechtel and Susan Sipe also voted ‘no’ on adopting the budget, saying they weren’t even made aware of much of what was going on regarding it until late in the game.
Despite the $8 million deficit, this year’s budget does project the board will spend $22,000 less than it did in fiscal year 2012.