Federal cuts would add to next year’s budget woes

  • Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 1:02 a.m.

EAST SPENCER — Federal funding cuts could bring next year’s budget deficit for Rowan-Salisbury School System to nearly $6 million, according to officials with the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler told the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday that she has seen estimates of 8 percent to 10 percent for the impending federal cuts. A survey given to the school system to calculate costs, though, gave a figure of 5.3 percent.

“If there is a 5.3 percent cut in our federal budget, that would be in excess of a half a million dollars,” she said.

If the number is actually 8 to 10 percent, Trexler said her $564,000 estimate could get closer to $1 million. That would be added to the $5.2 million in projected state and local cuts in the next school year.

The current budget appropriates $38.1 million in local funds, $111.3 million in state funds and $14.9 million in federal funds.

Most of the system’s federal money goes to Title I programs at schools with low-income populations, Trexler said. It also supports the exceptional children’s program and 17 teaching positions through the Title II program.

“The federal sequestration would be effective March 1 if nothing is done, but we’re told public schools would not be impacted until July 2013,” she said.

Kannapolis City Schools spokeswoman Ellen Boyd said Monday that the district hasn’t yet made any plans to deal with potential cuts in federal funding.

For now, she said, Kannapolis is following the advice of Philip Price, chief financial officer for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, who last week told school finance directors from across the state to take a “wait and see attitude” toward sequestration.

“We’re tentatively planning for it,” she said. “We’re not ignoring it, but at this point there won’t be any effect on this year’s budget and lots of things can happen between now and July and August.”

In a “worst-case scenario,” Boyd said, Kannapolis would lose 10 percent to 15 percent of its federal funding, which is a “very small percentage of our budget.”

• • •

Even without federal cuts, the Rowan-Salisbury School System is looking at an estimated $5.2 million deficit for the next fiscal year, Trexler said.

That’s due to the expiration of $1 million in EduJobs funding, an expected $2 million increase in state “flexible” cuts and a total of $481,000 in mandatory increases in the local budget.

To balance the current year’s budget and give its employees a 1 percent bonus, the school board took $1.05 million from its fund balance. But the board can’t tap its fund balance next year, she said, because it will total just $3 million to $3.5 million.

Trexler said after $24 million in cuts, equating to about 200 positions over the past few years, there isn’t much left for the school system to consider reducing.

The potential cuts list includes:

• Athletic supplements — $725,000

• Consolidated middle schools sports — $35,000

• Reduction of media assistants — $60,000 to $973,000 (total elimination)

• Remediation teachers (enrichment) — $350,000

• Alternative to suspension teachers (scale) — $350,000

• Instructional supplies — $1,788,814 (total elimination)

• Reduce art and music by half, or 13 of each — $1,300,000

• Reduce AIG staff by 10 — $600,000

• Director budget cuts — $125,000

• 30 percent cut in certified supplements — $1.2 million

• 50 percent cut in certified supplements — $2 million

Trexler asked the board to keep in mind that Rowan-Salisbury, with an average of $2,164 for teacher supplements, is already below the state average of $3,433.

“In previous years, we’ve taken the stand that at all costs, we need to protect the core classroom and... not increase class sizes,” Trexler said.

But she said the school board may want to consider looking at its class size formula this year.

Adding one student to the formula and eliminating 32 teaching positions would save $1.6 million. Increasing it by two students would cut 66 teaching positions and save $3.6 million.

Even with these possible reductions, Trexler said, there are some expansion items that the board can consider for its budget.

Those include bringing back school resource officers for middle schools ($275,000) and adding them to elementary schools ($780,000). Trexler also proposed bringing back three ($93,000) or nine ($279,000) additional front office clerical positions. Adding three would account for increases in enrollment at three schools, and adding nine would allow all 20 elementary schools to have a full-time receptionist on staff.

LINKS Grant funding is also set to expire for five social workers, two transition counselors, five early intervention specialists and two Hispanic specialists.

The school board will hold a work session at 5 p.m. on March 11. There, members will discuss what they want to include in their request to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

The board must make that request by early April, Trexler said, but it won’t know the impact of the state’s budget until May at the earliest.

Scott Jenkins contributed to this story.

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