School System Hopes County Will Reconsider Cuts
BY JOHN KRAHNERT III
The Moore County school system is attempting to raise awareness about the severity of funding cuts it faces for the coming fiscal year.
Last week, Moore County Manager Cary McSwain presented his recommended budget to the Moore County Board of Commissioners. The budget appropriates about $26.3 million for the school system - about $1.15 million less than the $27.4 million the Moore County Board of Education requested.
Purser said the school system has had to endure almost $5 million in reductions since 2007-2008. Last year, following a $2.5 million reduction, the school system had to cut 50 positions. More than half of them were layoffs, Purser said.
"We felt a great deal of pain when we look at our personnel," she told the Board of Education during its meeting Monday night. "We felt that pain with our individuals. We feel that on an ongoing basis because those 50 positions have been lost to our system."
Purser said the system has not asked for any replacement of those funds from the county and had to absorb those costs within its budget. It is bracing for at least $1.1 million in state cuts for this coming budget and has planned accordingly.
Moving forward, the picture isn't any rosier. Another $1.7 million in state cuts could be coming for 2010-2011. Next year, the system will lose another $5.2 million after federal stimulus funds expire. All together, that's a total loss of $11.7 million, or a nearly 11 percent reduction, since 2008.
Purser said the combined impact to the school system for the coming year from the local reductions and state cuts outlined in the governor's proposed budget could be more than $2.6 million.
"We have had a severe impact," she said, "and we're looking for more in the future."
The school board requested $26.2 million from the county for a current expenses - $1.3 million more than last year - and about $1.13 million for capital outlay. The county's budget proposal includes $25.5 million for current expenses and and $711,932 for capital outlay.
The school system attributed the $1.3 million increase to the operating expenses of opening of two new schools and additions at four existing schools - $978,000. That amount also covers mandated increases in retirement rate and health insurance - $375,000.
The county's budget proposal reduces the school system's current budget by 3 percent and adds back the expansion budget for the new expenses.
The commissioners were told during a budget work session last Thursday that fully funding the school board's budget request would require a 1.5-cent property tax increase.
"We have not asked the county to increase taxes," Purser said. "We have simply talked to them about what our needs are, and we said we will continue to work with the county in bringing about financial olutions that would look out for the schools as well as look out for our community as a whole."
Purser said the school system is working diligently to preserve jobs but said she couldn't guarantee anything if the cuts are worse than expected.
"It is our hope that we can sustain our people, and that will be our goal throughout the process as the weeks continue," she said.
The county will hold a public hearing on its budget proposal on May 17, and representatives from the school system will attend.
School board members echoed Purser's concerns Monday.
"I just think the schools are the lifeline of our democracy," Lorna Clack said, "and we need to fight for them."
Contact John Krahnert III by e-mail at email@example.com.
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