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Several parents and residents asked the Beaufort County Board of Education not to make cuts that would affect the classroom as the district moves forward with its 2012-13 budget planning.
"I would like to strongly say that we cannot afford to cut and mess with student academics," parent Andrea Canaday said Tuesday night during the first of two public hearings on the budget. "We can't afford to cut reading, writing, science or history. We're really hurting these kids."
The district and school board held the public forum at Battery Creek High School. A second is scheduled tonight at 7 p.m. at Blufffton High School.
District chief of operations Phyllis White told about 30 attendees -- including many district staff members -- that about $6.1 million in cuts are needed in the budget to offset rising costs.
White said the budget is created with input from principals and other district staff, and cuts are prioritized in an effort to minimize the impact on the classroom.
In total, the district anticipates about $174.5 million in revenue. State-mandated increases in staff salaries and benefits are expected to drive costs up next year, as they do almost every year, White said.
In order to keep spending flat, the district is considering cutting 45 positions through attrition. The district has 2,316 employees.
It would be the fourth consecutive year of staff cuts. About 200 positions have been eliminated since 2010, according to White.
Cheryl Ganshow, who has children at Battery Creek High School and Riverview Charter School, said she was troubled by the news the district may have to make further cuts.
"They've cut a lot already," she said.
The district has made about $17 million in cuts since 2009, according to White's presentation.
If more cuts are needed, Ganshow said they should not be made to core subjects.
School board chairman Fred Washington Jr. said the board has made a commitment not to cut programs that narrow the achievement gap or boost student progress.
Washington and other board members urged more parents to get involved, both in attending and speaking up at school board forums, but also in advocating for more funding for the district.
The district expects to give its first budget presentation to Beaufort County Council in late April or early May.