MOULTRIE -- Cutbacks in the state budget may very well put the crunch on Colquitt County Schools.

School officials are estimating state funding could be slashed as much as $1.2 million out of its $55.9 million budget already set for fiscal year 2003.

If passed by the General Assembly, the cuts could cut 5 percent from August allocations, school officials said. These cuts will likely extend into fiscal year 2004, as well.

"This could be hard on Colquitt County Schools," Superintendent Leonard McCoy said to the school board at Monday night's regular meeting.

"It will hurt," he told The Observer later, "but even in the worst-case scenario, we will finish out the school year in sound financial position and then be able to make whatever cuts necessary to take care of it for the following fiscal year."

Colquitt County Schools followed a relatively conservative fiscal policy and built up reserves to carry over into this school year, McCoy said.

Any budget cuts at the local level would likely be in personnel, the superintendent said, since personnel comprises 83 percent of the budget.

"But that's a considerable ways down the road. Right now, we're sitting in good shape for this fiscal year, and we will monitor the actions of the legislature then make actual decisions as to what's appropriate later on," he said.

McCoy plans to lobby against any budget cuts and advocate keeping education a priority in the State of Georgia.

September ended 14 consecutive months of declining revenue collections in Georgia. For the fiscal year to date, revenue collections are down 6.6 percent, according to the Georgia Office of Planning and Budget (OPB).

During April, OPB instructed each department, agency and authority to withhold 1 percent of appropriations as a precautionary measure. By August, due to the continuing decline in state revenues and federal government actions that directly affected earlier estimates of state revenues, the OPB directed an additional 2 percent withholding of appropriations, state sources said.

OPB is preparing proposals to allow local systems flexibility in implementing proposed reductions given the difficulty these cuts will impose.

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