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No plans to lobby county for more money

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
Rowan-Salisbury School Systemís top official says although the district could be facing a substantial funding cliff with the reduction of state funds and the expiration of federal stimulus dollars, she does not want to request additional local money.
ěI think we have all heard from the (county) commissioners, either from reading the newspaper or attending the meetings, that the likelihood of us getting an increase is probably slim to none,î Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said during Thursdayís Board of Education finance subcommittee meeting.
During the Rowan County Board of Commissionerí planning session earlier this month, County Manager Gary Page proposed cutting $1 million from the school systemís allotment next fiscal year.
ěI donít see any need for us going in requesting their support or help for the state deficit,î Grissom said.
Grissom said she thinks the system could deal with the budget shortfall by using part of the systemís fund balance.
Assistant Superintendent Gene Miller said that although the school system has been accused of building up its fund balance, the increase in undesignated funds from more than $5.6 million in 2007 to $7.1 million in 2010 has been intentional.
ěThe school system has positioned itself to weather some of this,î he said. ěWe knew we had shortfalls coming.î
Miller compared the school system and countyís fund balances during the school boardís finance meeting.
He said although the school systemís undesignated fund balance has grown about 24.3 percent from 2004 to 2010, the countyís undesignated fund went up almost 21.8 percent during the same time.
Miller said the school systemís total fund balance shrank about 8.7 percent from 2007 to 2010, while the countyís fund balance grew 23.3 percent.
ěTwo county commissioners keep saying their fund balance is going down, down, down and the school system is hoarding their money,î he said. ěAll Iím doing is showing you the numbers.î
Grissom said using a combination of fund balance money, the $4.2 million in federal Education Jobs Fund and making cuts would be a better solution than requesting more local funding.
School board member Linda Freeze said she agrees.
ěTheyíre worried about funding just like we are and for us to go in and ask for an increase is just not right,î she said.
Despite the increase in undesignated dollars, Grissom cautioned against depleting the fund balance, as even larger funding cliffs could be approaching the following year because the Education Jobs Fund will only be around for one year.
ěWe want to protect the classroom as much as possible,î she said. ěTeachers and teacher assistants would be the last thing that would go.î
School board chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said Friday he feels the district should continue to do its part in ětaking the hit.î
ěI am hoping that the county commissioners will keep us at the same level of funding that we have been at,î he said. ěIíd like to see us maintain and hold the line.î
Emerson said he feels requesting additional funds could antagonize commissioners.
ěWe donít want to get into a contest,î he said.
And, Emerson said, he hopes the commissioners wonít make any drastic cuts to the school systemís portion of county funding.
ěWe need a strong education system in Rowan County,î he said. ěIt is something that will attract companies and jobs to our county. Ö I just hope they remember that.î
School board member Richard Miller said he would like to see a longitudinal comparison of the countyís funding of the school system over the years before making a decision about what kind of allotment to request from the county.
He said although the school systemís population has declined, itís number of economically-disadvantaged and special needs students has grown.
ěWe, as a culture, have a commitment to educate all kids, but all kids donít have equal needs and that creates additional costs,î he said.
Miller said heíd like for the school board and county commissioners to sit down and have a discussion before the district makes its allotment request in April, presenting a detailed picture of the school systemís expenditures and funding sources.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

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