Beaufort County school board refuses to cut budget

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJune 17, 2014 

The Beaufort County Board of Education is standing its ground -- refusing to cut its budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the board discussed where it could strip roughly $3.5 million from its spending plan.

County Council, during its second reading of the district's budget June 9, voted to give the district less tax revenue than it requested.

But the school board hasn't budged, deciding again Tuesday to make no cuts to its $192.9 million budget.

"I would caution against ... too much discussion about things we ought to cut," board chairman Bill Evans said during Tuesday's meeting. He made his comments by phone after illness prevented him from attending. "I think we would be well-served to wait until they (County Council) take their third and final vote."

That vote will come June 23, when council will vote on a roughly $189.4 million budget that has $114.8 million in tax revenue.

The district presented a $192.9 million budget calling for about $118.2 million in tax revenue.

Several board members said they were not comfortable cutting roughly $4 million the first time council asked them to do so several weeks ago.

They said those feelings haven't changed Tuesday.

"We need to hold County Council's feet to the fire and hold fast for the best interest of our students," board member Bill Payne said.

Board member Michael Rivers agreed.

"If we keep caving in and cutting, they are going to keep telling us to cut," he said. "And at some point we will become negligent to our students."

County Council could change the amount it approves for the district's budget at the third reading, county attorney Josh Gruber said in an interview Tuesday after the board's meeting. He said that was unlikely.

To make the change, council would have to approve an amendment to the budget ordinance. The panel would then have to schedule a special meeting before June 30 -- the fiscal year starts July 1 -- for final vote on the spending plan.

Council's policy says an additional third reading must be scheduled if a substantive change is made after the second reading to allow time for public input, Gruber said.

Board vice chairwoman Mary Cordray has asked board members to keep their calendar's clear next week should council not change its mind.

The board would need to schedule a special meeting if forced to make the cuts, she said.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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