Schools Try to Hold Line on Budget
School Superintendent Susan Purser hopes to hold the line on county funding for the system's budget next year.
Purser presented her proposed budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year at a special Moore County Board of Education meeting Monday night. Her proposal calls for total county funding of $26,069,145 -- no increase from this year's budget.
The school system is forecasting cost increases of $750,000, mainly from utilities. To counterbalance that, the system will make a 3 percent reduction, or $750,000, in other areas.
"We just have a few challenges as we look ahead at the resources we have," Purser said. "Any time that we have challenges in front of us, we always have an opportunity to do what is right. The budget we bring to you this evening is truly a 'right budget.'"
The maintenance department would absorb the brunt of the reductions, while adjustments would also be made in personnel and operations. Those proposed changes include reducing energy use and printing costs, establishing cost-saving guidelines for travel, continuing a soft hiring freeze, and reviewing low-enrollment classes and programs and dropping them if necessary, such as International Baccalaureate at Pinecrest High School and the sixth-grade year-round program at Southern Pines Elementary School.
Additionally, the school system will implement a mandatory four-day summer work week systemwide to cut back on costs. The year-round calendar would be included in that measure, and the four Fridays students would miss would be made up during inter-session breaks.
Purser also stressed the importance of not shifting the burden onto families. Her budget also calls for the establishment of cost-saving guidelines for field trips, which have become cumbersome for some families, a reduction in student fees, and the expansion of student accident coverage.
The school system's budgeting process reflects the difficult economic times facing the entire nation. Purser, who has been an educator for 39 years and has plenty of budgeting experience, said in a media briefing on her proposal before the meeting that she had never experienced anything like this one.
"I have never had a budget like this, that had to do this kind of work," she said. "I've been through times where I had to do significant reductions. So I know what it's like, but it's never been like this."
While county funding is easier to anticipate, state funding -- which accounts for about two-thirds of the school district's total budget, estimated to be $110 million -- tends to be a more fluid situation. It may not be resolved until the fall, depending on when the General Assembly adopts a budget.
Gov. Beverly Perdue unveiled her proposed budget last week. Under that proposal, Moore County could experience a $2 million funding cut, though it is still very much an unknown what the final number will be.
Purser said that the school system will do whatever it can to avoid personnel cuts, and would go line by line to find other means to meet the reductions. She also hopes that federal stimulus money would help fill in the gaps. But she said that such a huge reduction in funding could impact staff.
"I will say, though, to take millions of dollars out of a budget, somewhere along the line, we would have to touch staff," she said, "but we will do that as a last resort. And our hope would be that our stimulus money, when it gets here, we'll be able to use that where we see that we need to shore up and provide the support we provide. And I believe we can do that. I am an optimist."
The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday. On April 8, the board could adopt the proposal. The request would then be sent to the county commissioners, which typically completes its budgeting process in June.
The board was complimentary of Purser and her staff's efforts.
"I think when you look at what you all have come up with to be a no-increase but yet, right now, not touching staff, but helping families out with field trips, student fees, the insurance, I think that's just wonderful," board Chairwoman Kathy Farren said, "because not only are we trying to help our system out, but we're looking at our families also."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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