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State cuts school system budgets

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
In the midst of an economic slump, the state is asking school systems to minimize spending ó and extra state money for diesel might not be available.
The announcement from the governor’s office came after the Rowan-Salisbury School System had finalized its budget for this school year.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said at the Board of Education meeting Monday that she had received a letter from the Office of the State Budget and Management last week.
The letter says the state is reducing agencies’ budgets by 2 percent.
Public school funds are being reduced by 1 percent. Officials want school systems to limit travel and purchases.
The Rowan-Salisbury system has already taken steps to cut diesel costs. Transportation officials reduced the number of school bus stops this year.
But times remain tough.
“There is a chance we might not receive any additional funds for diesel fuel,” Grissom said during the meeting Monday.
The state gave Rowan-Salisbury schools about $3 million in July for diesel, Transportation Director Judy Burris said.
The local system will get another $2 million or so from the state in December, she said.
In the past, the state has given schools extra money throughout the year to supplement transportation costs.
This past winter, as fuel prices soared, that supplement came in handy, Burris said.
Between February and April this year, she said, the state gave Rowan-Salisbury schools a much-needed extra $379,240 for diesel.
“It was major,” Burris said.
Even so, the school system still had to shell out about $168,000 in local money to cover diesel costs.
This year, Burris says, she’s not expecting extra transportation money from the state, which is paying school systems at a rate of $3.23 a gallon, regardless of actual prices.
Burris said that’s the amount she’s paying now for diesel. It’s a lot better than the $4.11 a gallon the system was paying at the end of June.
To be on the safe side, the school system set aside more than $400,000 this year for diesel costs, Burris said.
That money will be used if the state doesn’t dole out supplemental transportation funds.
“We’re looking very closely at the fuel issue,” Burris said.
Rita Foil, spokesperson for the school system, said officials don’t necessarily have immediate plans to reduce costs even more.
The system created its calendar of meetings last spring. Foil said if departments need extra meeting times, they are asked to schedule them around existing times. That way, travel will be reduced, she said.”Dr. Grissom had asked staff to be very sensitive to the issue of travel,” Foil said.

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