School board approves budget cuts

EAST SPENCER — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved its budget resolution for 2013-14 on Monday.

Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler said 88 jobs are being eliminated, including classroom teachers. The school system is increasing its class size formula by one student.

That number counts about 50 teachers who were laid off in May. Trexler has said most of them have been re-employed either in the Salisbury-Rowan school system or another. Many took jobs that became vacant through attrition, she said.

The total of $4.5 million in cuts help make up a $5 million deficit from state and federal budget cuts, as well as money taken from last year’s fund balance.

Trexler said the school board’s budget includes a $400,000 cut to school instructional supplies, which is one of the areas state lawmakers chose to cut this year instead of asking school systems to make a “discretionary” or flexible reduction. The total loss is $600,000, but $200,000 of that will be made up in local funding.

The budget also includes the choices made by the board at its last meeting on Aug. 6. To help cover the deficit and pay for some additional items, about $1.57 million will be moved from the fund balance.

Five teaching positions will be restored to avoid the combination of classes, and seven behavioral intervention specialists will now be funded locally after a federal grant expired.

Despite a $1.5 million reduction from the state for teacher assistants, the school system avoided cutting most teaching-assistant positions — except 17 positions that were added last year.

“I went to an elementary school for one of their opening breakfasts,” said board-member Jean Kennedy, “and I had several TAs come forward asking me to thank the board for saving their positions.”

Other board members said they have heard similar comments since their last meeting.

“This budget is one of survival,” Trexler said. “It’s the least amount of damage we could control. It also has some expansion for that safety focus that the board and school system have really had this year.”

The school board has approved an additional front-office clerical position for each of three elementary schools — Millbridge, Rockwell and Shive — whose student populations have grown over a certain threshold. It also voted to install safety lighting in darker areas of school campuses.

The state of North Carolina will soon offer grants to school systems that need school resource officers, Trexler said, but the grant requirements haven’t been released yet.

To make sure it has enough money for a local grant match, the school board included funding for middle school resource officers in its budget. If the system isn’t eligible for the grant or its application is not approved, that money can be used to pay some or all of the cost to hire the officers.

In other business Monday, the Rowan-Salisbury school board also:

• Approved field trip requests from West, South, Carson and East Rowan high schools. Future Farmers of America groups at these schools will send students to the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., leaving Oct. 28 and returning on Nov. 1 or 2.

• Approved the Rowan County Rescue Squad annual contract, which includes one significant change. In addition to paying rescue personnel $15 an hour for services at football games, the board will now pay $1,000 per year for a fuel surcharge.

Nathan Currie, assistant superintendent of administration, said there will be rescue units at 60 high school football games and 57 middle school games. The school system must pay a two-man crew for at least two hours of standby services at a time, Currie said.

Board member Chuck Hughes asked if the system could pay volunteer medical professionals to attend the games, but others pointed out that the volunteers wouldn’t have immediate access to emergency vehicles.

• Approved the annual YMCA usage agreement. The school system uses that facility for events such as swim meets and other meetings, and in turn, the YMCA is allowed to use school facilities to offer after-school care.

• Heard a presentation by Nathan Currie and Sgt. Bob Prince about the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program that will be implemented this school year.

• Met in closed session to discuss student transfers and the monthly personnel report.

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.



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