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June 20--  The Georgia Department of Education continues to withhold money from area schools systems and the impact in the coming school year is the loss of jobs in the Vidalia school system.

This is the final budget retiring  School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith will prepare and years of shortfalls from the state are finally forcing him to let people go in the schools.

"This is the first year we've had to send people home.  It's not the first year we didn't replace positions because we've let attrition help us with budget problems, but this year we actually sent people home, we fired them because we don't have the money to pay them.  In 2003 they took $220,000 up until 2012 when they took $1.7 million and who knows what they're going to withhold next year," Dr. Smith says.

The tentative budget takes 16.5 positions off the payroll.

"We're not going to be able to provide jobs to para-pros and next year we'll be operating a school without a counselor and another without a librarian," he notes.

In the last nine years, the state has withheld $8.5 million from the Vidalia school system and caused officials to draw from local reserve funds which are down from $3 million in 2003 to about $900,000 at the end of next year.

"We've had to balance the budget by using part of our reserves.  Now we've used two-thirds of those reserves and I don't see any increase in funding," says Dr. Smith who dreads the decisions his successor, Dr. Garrett Wilcox, will be facing.

"That man will have to make some decisions nobody will like and they will be based purely on finances," he says.

Dr. Smith says if a constitutional amendment passes allowing the state to fund charter schools, the public schools will get even less funding and their programs will have to be cut.