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

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."


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.


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.

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