Board trims $7M from school budget

February 18, 2011 

  • Among the reductions approved Friday by the Board of Education are:

    • Cutting funding for extracurricular activities by 5 percent. That could include reducing stipends to coaches or other activity sponsors, allocations for athletic equipment and allocations for transportation. The district would maintain athletic insurance and keep intact budgets for band, strings and chorus programs.

    • Increasing class sizes by an average of one student, which would allow the district to cut teaching positions. Officials say current teachers won’t lose their jobs; the district will instead hire fewer new ones.

    • Freezing for one year the annual pay increases some administrators receive for additional years of experience or degrees earned.

    • Reducing school supply budgets.

    • Reducing from 29 to 12 the number of math and science instructional coaches and from 30 to 16 the number of literacy instructional coaches.

    • Eliminating career development facilitators. Guidance counselors would assume their duties.

    • Reducing by six the number of district-office coordinator positions. Those include positions for special education and school-to-work coordinators. The cut would require assistant principals and school psychologists to assume more responsibility for special-education students.

    • Eliminating a teaching position from the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence.
    • Eliminating nurse assistants.

    • Allowing teacher assistants to reduce by eight the number of days they work in a school year. The reduction would not be mandatory.

    • Ending general-fund supplements to some programs paid for through special-revenue accounts. This would scale back several programs, including a parenting program providing assistance to teen mothers and other residents.

    • Reducing stipends for teachers who serve as mentors in the Assisting, Developing and Evaluating Professional Teaching program.

    • Reducing by one-third the $2,000 annual bonuses paid to National Board Certified Teachers.

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?"

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