February 18, 2014

Tax increase likely

Dalton school board considering ‘all options’


The $3.7 million fund tucked away?

School officials might be able to give the budget some relief by transferring $500,000 from a $3.7 million fund established by the city of Dalton in 2000 that was originally intended to build a public community theater at Dalton Middle School. The project ended before groundbreaking because it became too expensive and impractical, Perry said, adding that the money has stayed with the school system and grew $700,000 in interest over 14 years.

Board members are “hesitant” to use that fund to cover their shortfall, school officials said.

“The city has told the board that they can use that for whatever purposes they want to use it for,” Perry said. “It doesn't have to be earmarked for something like that theater.”

The board’s “preference” would be to use that money “for the community,” Perry said.

“We want to honor the spirit in the way it was originally intended,” Crutchfield said, when asked if the board would consider using that money to help relieve the system’s money problems. “We kind of held on to it because the intention was that somewhere down the road a joint venture would come out of it.”

Fourteen years later, nothing has happened.

“It’s kind of understood that it will be something public down the road,” Crutchfield said.

Hawkins: ‘We’ve already cut’

Sherwood Jones III, who began as a board member in January, questioned the need for some staff members.

“Some of the staff, are they necessary at this time?” he asked. “I’m not suggesting anyone be fired. But I think it’s important to look at staff.”

Hawkins explained that “we’ve already cut” in 2010. Thirty-two positions, including teachers, were cut that year, and 42 similar positions were added in 2012 after it became “absolutely necessary” to have them, Hawkins added.

“We experienced not having those positions for two years,” he said. “But we only put back what we needed. I told the board (in 2010) that we cut too deep, that we were drowning. Our community needed us to suck it up for two years, but we could not maintain that over time.”

Board member Rick Fromm said considering cuts to staff or school days isn’t something he would easily agree to.

“We don’t want to move backwards,” he said. “I really don’t want to move backwards on salaries either. We have a great system and great people. You can’t continue to take from them. Putting staff reductions back on the table negates last year’s conversation of restoring things.”

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