Schools Brace for Big Cuts
The Moore County school system is facing the possibility of $5 million in budget cuts for the coming fiscal year.
Superintendent Susan Purser and Chief Finance Officer Mike Griffin provided a gloomy financial forecast to the Board of Education Monday night.
With County Manager Cary McSwain recommending cuts of $840,000 from county funding and the N.C. House of Representatives potentially reducing state education funding by 17 to 20 percent, Purser said budget reductions of that magnitude will affect the classroom.
"We're committed to provide for children," she said. "We're committed to provide it through adults (employees), and we are working in every way possible to hold onto our adults. But looking at a reduction of $5 million, there is not a way to do it without reducing staff, and there is no way we can do it without having an impact on the classroom. You can't take $5 million out of our budget and not expect it to hit the classroom."
Purser said $5 million represents about 100 teaching positions if those were the only cuts made, but she insisted that was only an illustration to demonstrate the impact that the cuts could have on the system's operation. The system will look to make cuts elsewhere before affecting teaching positions, she said.
"We're not talking about removing 100 teachers, don't misunderstand what I'm saying tonight," she said. "I just want to share with the community and the board the drastic reductions that are being made in education budgets. The picture keeps getting a little bit gloomier."
The school system reduced its county budget by $750,000 to offset rising utility costs and keep county funding at the same level as last year. McSwain recommended further cuts -- a $400,000 reduction in the capital budget and a $440,000 reduction in operations. Purser said unused bond funds and interest earned on new bonds will help meet the capital needs. She said there was no way to offset the recommended operational cuts.
Tax Cut Questioned
Board member Sue Black said she was puzzled by the county's proposed one-cent tax rate reduction.
"It seems an odd time for the county to be thinking of reducing the tax rate when the schools are in such dire straits," she said.
Griffin said the school system was strategically spending its dollars and was on target for where it needs to be at this point. But because the state has recently asked for a budget reversion of $342,000, the board passed a resolution that allows the system to cover that much in its fund balance.
The state asked for a reversion of $484,000 in December.
Griffin said the state budget situation has become "more and more painful" for the school district.
Gov. Beverly Perdue's budget proposal, announced in February, called for a $2 million reduction in funding for the Moore County school system.
In March, the state Senate presented its budget, which proposed cuts up to $2.4 million for Moore County. It also calls for the addition of two students per classroom, which could impact up to 51 teaching positions and any related teaching assistants or support staff.
The House's budget proposal should be released later this month and is expected to be even more drastic.
School Name Chosen
About 66 percent of the school system's $110 million budget comes from the state. About 85 percent of the budget is dedicated to personnel.
The school system has already taken a number of measures to cope with the cuts, such as closing on Fridays during the summer. That action alone could save two and a half teaching positions, Purser said.
Purser said reductions can't be made in just one area but will take place across the board. She again reiterated the system's commitment to avoid cutting personnel.
"That's where our focus is in everything we're doing," she said.
In other business, West Pine Elementary was selected as the name for the new elementary school located adjacent to West Pine Middle. Wildcat Cub was chosen as the mascot with light blue and yellow as the colors, similar to the middle school's mascot.
Board member Bruce Cunningham commended the selection and called the name, mascot and colors "appropriate" for the system's first attempt to cluster two schools together.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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