EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a three-part series about the reorganization of elementary schools in Grady County.

CAIRO — One of the biggest concerns regarding the reorganization of three Grady County elementary schools (Southside, Northside and Eastside) is: How much will it cost?

“A lot will have to change the first year in regards to teachers and plans and bus routes,” said Steve Wooten, superintendent of Grady County schools. “There are unknowns, but reorganization is not going to cost the school system.”

Wooten said there would be some initial costs to implement reorganization, but that it would be absorbed through savings garnered by the move.

“It might cost $20,000 for a couple of drivers for additional bus routes, and we already have the buses,” he said. “It will probably cost $5,000 to $10,000 during the summer to get everything moved and put back in place. We’re expecting to net a savings of $500,000 per year.”

Eastside Elementary will need 11 additional classrooms and this is where another financial question has been asked regarding the affect of reorganization on the use of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.

SPLOST is expected to bring in $13.5 million. The current obligations for projects on the list (see chart) is $16.2 million and the amount of SPLOST funds already obligated is $11.1 million.

“We cannot do any projects that the voters didn’t approve," said Wooten of the SPLOST ballot. “We cannot spend more money on any one project than the voters approved. But, we do not have to do all the projects listed in the SPLOST if we do not have the funds to complete them. We’ve all sat down and met about this and agreed that we cannot do any projects with SPLOST funds that were not approved by the voters. The amount of money that was set aside for each school is the amount that will be spent there. We won't be using funds for Northside to fund Eastside projects.”

Eastside just got several new classrooms in SPLOST ,and the 11 classrooms needed for reorganization are expected to cost $1.8 million (or possibly as low as $1.5 million).

“The new construction necessary for reorganization will be paid for out of bonds,” said Wooten. “That has nothing to do with SPLOST. We already have these funds ($6 million in bonds sold in 2005 and 2006).”

Also, the $1 million central office originally slated to be done using bond money has been scrapped, said Wooten, and that money will be used to help fund the classrooms. The additional amount needed will come from bond money that has not been obligated.

Dan Broome, finance director for Grady County schools, explained how all this is possible.

“We know what SPLOST regulations are and are adhering to all those limitations,” he said. “SPLOST limitations would not allow us to use funds for Eastside classrooms for reorganization, but we can use additional bond money for this. There was a list of things we could do with the bond money, like with SPLOST, and this included projects like renovations. The difference is that bonds have a flexibility that SPLOST does not have. There are no limitations as far as what amount can be spent for what project. It's our discretion where to allot the bond money because there are no dollar limitations. We can't do the new wing for Eastside because we just paid for the classrooms with SPLOST money and spent our limitation at Eastside, but we can use bond money for other renovations, and it would be in the guidelines to use that money for classroom construction.”

Officials said the potential savings from reorganization (see chart on possible savings) could be used for additional programs for students in the future.

“We’re going to save more than it is going to cost,” said Wooten. “We’re going to save up to $500,000 per year. Reorganization will save the system money, but just how much it will save will depend on factors. Based on everything we looked at, the savings will outweigh the cost of it.”

These savings do include salaries (see chart), but Wooten held by a previous statement that no teacher would lose a job.

“This is going to be handled through attrition,” he said. “As people leave for retirement or transfer to other schools, we will not fill those positions. That will even it out, but it may take a year or two to be absorbed.”

Broome said reorganization should not have a negative financial impact on Grady County schools.

“I don’t think there would be negative impact,” he said. “The positives could be adding additional services with the money saved by reorganizing the schools or help us in not having to raise millage.”

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