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Rowan-Salisbury School System prepares for more cutbacks

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
Rowan-Salisbury school leaders said Monday they are bracing for more financial setbacks, even after they cut more than $800,000 from the school system’s budget.
“We do feel the worst has not yet come,” Tara Trexler, the chief financial officer for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said during the Board of Education meeting.
The sagging economy led state leaders to ask school systems for budget reversions, which are based on student enrollment numbers.The Rowan-Salisbury system must cut its budget by $817,637.
Trexler told the board the school system should prepare for more cuts.
Schools should limit out-of-state travel, she said. They should also be sure not to spend more than the allowed $4.50 per person for food during gatherings.
School leaders should also keep an eye on how much overtime employees are working, Trexler said.
The system’s officials had been working to find the money in their budget they felt they could live without.
“This was not easy to do without affecting the classroom,” Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said.
On Monday, Board of Education members unanimously approved budget areas to tap:
– $270,000 from extra fuel reserve fund.
School leaders had set aside extra money this year to help offset high diesel costs.
But the recent cheaper prices are saving the school system money.
“Thank goodness the gas prices came down, because that’s what saved us,” Grissom said.
The system paid about $1.43 a gallon for diesel a few days ago, said Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations. The state is reimbursing transportation costs at $2.40 a gallon.
– $175,000 from additional revenue school leaders hadn’t yet budgeted.
– $171,117 from lapsed salaries and benefits for central office employees.
– $80,000 from state funding, which the school system was to receive for an increased number of disadvantaged students.
– $78,820 from lapsed salaries and benefits of instructional positions, mostly by reducing the number of reading assistants.
A full year of insurance benefits for one employee costs more than $4,000, Trexler said.
“That’s what starts adding up,” she said.
Also during the meeting Monday:
– The board approved the school calendar for 2009-10.
The calendar includes four school days when students will be released early so teachers can participate in staff development training.
“We’re just desperate for teachers to find time to do some of these things they need to do,” Grissom said.
Board member Karen Carpenter said if the change is successful, she’d like to see more than four early-release days in the future.
– School board incumbents Bryce Beard, Dr. Jim Emerson and Linda Freeze were sworn in to serve another term on the board.
The three were re-elected last month. Emerson was the only one who faced competition in the race.
The board voted for Emerson to continue to serve as chairman and for Jean Kennedy to continue to serve as vice chairman.
– The board recognized West Rowan High School student Cara Cline, who won the school system’s 2008 holiday card competition.
Cline designed a cover for cards that will be sent to hundreds of people this holiday season, schools spokeswoman Rita Foil said.

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