More budget tightening is likely on the horizon for Beaufort County's public schools.
About $6 million in cuts will be needed in 2012-13 to keep the school district's spending at the same level as the current fiscal year, chief operational services officer Phyllis White told the Board of Education at a work session Friday.
The cuts would offset an equal rise in costs, White said. State-mandated salary increases for teachers and staff could cost the district about $3.9 million next year. State-mandated benefits could cost about $500,000 more.
The district also expects $1 million in additional costs for funding for Riverview Charter School.
The district could save about $2.6 million by eliminating about 45 positions districtwide, said White, who said the cuts could be made by attrition. The district has 2,316 employees.
It would be the fourth consecutive year of staff cuts. About 200 positions have been eliminated since 2010, according to White.
White said the district is nearing the point where further staff cuts would be nearly impossible.
"We're pretty much done with reductions," she said. "We have managed to balance the budget by doing modifications to the staffing formula, and (these 45 cuts are) probably the end of our ability to do that."
Board members discussed how the district so far has been able to make cuts while improving student test scores, ratings on state report cards and other measures of school performance.
Some said they are concerned further cuts could kill that momentum.
"We've cut and we've cut and we've cut, and we've had better results," said board member Bill Evans. "It just gives people the argument that we should just keep cutting, because it doesn't seem to be hurting. But at what point will we hit the wall?"
Two public forums on the district's budget are scheduled in the coming weeks. One will be at 7 p.m. April 10 at Battery Creek High School. The second will be at 7 p.m. April 11 at Bluffton High School.
The district expects to give its first budget presentation to Beaufort County Council in late April or early May.