Board trims $7M from school budget

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Board trims $7M from school budget

By KATE CERVE
kcerve@beaufortgazette.com
843-706-8177
Published Friday, February 18, 2011   |  541 Words  |  

Class sizes will increase and budgets for extracurricular activities and school supplies will be cut as the Beaufort County Board of Education copes with the shortfall expected in next school year's spending plan.

Positions for teachers, instructional coaches and district-office coordinators will be eliminated and the $2,000 local supplements paid to teachers who earn National Board Certification will be reduced by one-third.

Administrators -- both principals and central-office employees -- would forgo for one year the annual raises that reward them for additional years of experience and degrees earned.

The school board identified nearly $7 million in reductions for 2011-12 during a six-hour work session Friday.

It voted separately on about 20 proposed cuts and voted to make protecting teaching in the classroom its highest funding priority as it continues work on the budget this spring.

"There aren't any good choices here," board member Wayne Carbiener said, echoing a phrase superintendent Valerie Truesdale often has used in recent weeks as she reviewed the budget with parent groups.

A few programs escaped the budget ax, among them the pre-kindergarten classes that serve more than 850 at-risk 4-year-olds. The board also decided to keep hall monitors and school police officers in middle and high schools.

District officials also hope they can cut about 80 positions the board eliminated without layoffs. They would instead hire fewer new employees this summer and try to find other jobs within the district for those who lose their positions, said human resources chief Jackie Rosswurm.

The district anticipates a shortfall of about $6.8 million in the 2011-12 budget.

Phyllis White, district operational services chief, said that number is likely to change during the next few months as more information arrives about state funding, this year's local tax collections and mill values.

The figure assumes state law and Beaufort County Council will allow the district to raise taxes by 2 to 3 percent on non-resident homes and commercial and personal properties. State law exempts resident homeowners from property taxes to fund school operations.

The board won't recommend a final budget to County Council until spring. A first reading is scheduled for early May.

The current year's budget is $175 million. County Council last year rejected a 2-percent property tax increase the district requested to fund it. White said lower-than-expected tax collection rates as of Jan. 31 suggest the district could be as much as $5.6 million short in the current spending plan and will have to draw from its $30 million reserve fund to make up the difference.

Some board members said the district should take more from its reserves before making deeper cuts to classroom expenditures, which could hurt academic performance.

"If this isn't a rainy day, it's certainly a cloudy one," board member Bill Evans said during the work session.

The board strives to keep about 15 percent of budgeted expenditures on hand to protect its credit rating and provide for an emergency.

"I will support using the money out of our fund balance to do what we need to do," board member Earl Campbell said. "... If we get down to 10 percent, so what?"