School board cuts budget by $3.4M -- reluctantly + survey

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJune 24, 2014 

  • Board-approved Budget Reductions FY 2014-15

    Reductions from June 24, 2014, meeting

    TargetAmountNotes
    3 Teachers for Growth $195,000Add as needed
    Change from Literacy to Reading Coaches $700,000 
    Transportation (Time Change) $400,000 
    TAP Savings - District Costs $130,000 
    CATE expansion $288,000 
    Benefit Decrease Per State Budget Approval $320,000 
    Riverview Allocation Reduction (New State EFA) $230,000 
    Hall Monitors $250,000Effective Oct. 1
    District Office Supplies $5,000 
    District Office Other $75,000 
    District Office Data Reporting $15,000 
    Professional Development - District $15,000 
    Board of Education budget $42,500 
    Technology Coach Vacancies $120,000 
    Step for Classified $429,024Review mid-year
    Step for Administrators $142,650 
    Total cuts$3,357,174 
    Original budget$192,916,015 
    Budget minus cuts$189,558,841

After weeks of delay, the Beaufort County Board of Education voted to cut $3.4 million from its 2014-15 budget Tuesday night.

The cuts eliminate, among other things, hall monitors and raises for some employees.

The board approved the $189.6 million budget by a 6-2 vote. Board secretary Laura Bush and board member Earl Campbell opposed, while board members Michael Rivers, Geri Kinton and JoAnn Orischak were absent.

The school board originally proposed a $192.9 million spending plan to Beaufort County Council in May.

However, council told the board at the budget's final reading Monday that it must make the cuts.

The district delayed those cuts in the hope council would decide to give it more money, board chairman Bill Evans said Monday. But when council made its decision final, the board called a special meeting Tuesday to pare down the spending plan.

"Whether or not we feel that we presented our case to County Council, and whether or not we are happy with their decision, it is what it is," Bush said Tuesday night. "We are in the ninth hour and we have to approve a budget by July 1."

MEMBERS CLASH

But the vote to cut the spending plan did not stop the board from discussing the budget for more than three hours.

Board members quickly and unanimously agreed on several cuts totaling roughly $2.5 million.

For example, plans to hire technology coaches, budgeted for $120,000, were cut. Transportation costs were cut by $400,000 by rerouting some bus routes.

However, other items caused discord among the group.

Members clashed over funding for about 14 hall monitors in middle and high schools and a planned pay increase for office staff, school nurses and teaching assistants.

In a 5-3 vote -- with Jim Beckert, Bush and Campbell opposed -- the board decided to terminate the hall monitors effective Oct. 1.

The board wanted to give the monitors about three months' notice so they could find new jobs. It would also allow schools to adjust by having other staff members assume those duties. The move will save the district $250,000.

Another point of contention concerned possibly eliminating the athletic insurance the district provides to students. That decision was delayed until the 2015-16 school year.

The board also considered eliminating seven unfilled teacher positions the district created to cover expected growth. In the end, it eliminated three of those positions at a savings of $195,000.

OTHER CUTS

The board also decided to eliminate pay increases for office staff, school nurses and teaching assistants.

That will save the district $429,024. However, the board did agree to revisit those proposed raises at mid-year if it realized savings in other areas.

Overall, the cuts mean the district will have to pull less than $200,000 from its fund balance.

The district's string instrument program and prekindergarten expansion plan survived the cuts.

"While I agree this has been a difficult time from a budgeting standpoint, I feel that our primary focus is to put as many resources into the classroom (as possible)," Beckert said.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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