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2011-2012 Chatham school budget challenges continue

Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Last week school districts across the state received their local education budget adjustments for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Prior to the state approving its final budget, Chatham County Schools estimated a $5,027,902 deficit and worked throughout the spring and early summer to develop a budget which addressed this deficit with the least possible impact on the classroom.

To balance the school district budget, the board of education and administration used $2,596,729 of fund balance (similar to a savings account) coupled with $2,431,173 in reductions from personnel and operations. Budgetary adjustments include a reduction of 27.33 positions (16 central services and 11.33 school level), a reduction of five days of employment for all teacher assistants and clerical staff, a reduction of hours of employment for all custodial staff, instructional and administrative supplies and materials, textbooks, student transportation, deletion of state and local staff development funds, deletion of all field trip funds, and loss of many other resources. During the June Chatham County budget meetings, county commissioners reinstated two teaching positions that had been cut from SAGE Academy and, recognizing the difficulty the district will have in maintaining a high level of service to students if further cuts are made, instructed education officials to come back to them for assistance if the state imposed additional discretionary cuts.

The final state budget includes $124 million in discretionary cuts to education statewide. A discretionary cut is one in which the state designates the amount of the cut but the local school district has the latitude to determine which areas will be cut. Chatham’s actual portion of the 2011-2012 state discretionary funding cut is $2,303,420. In April Chatham County Schools projected $1,597,239 in discretionary cuts. Thus, the school district still faces a $706,181 deficit. Board of Education Chair Deb McManus and Superintendent Robert Logan are scheduled to meet with the commissioners on Monday, July 18, to discuss this deficit.

Logan indicated that failure to obtain additional local funding will result in additional budgetary cuts. Over the past three years, approximately $9 million has been cut from the school district budget.

“We are at the point of having to cut more personnel because this category makes up the largest portion of our budget and significant cuts have already been made to non-personnel areas,” Logan stated.

Some options include: the reduction of a) 12 additional teachers; or b) 23 additional teacher assistants; or c) 23.5 custodians; or d) 16 clerical positions; or e) some combination of the previous categories.

Chairwoman McManus stated, “It would be devastating to cut jobs that will decrease services to our children at this late date in the budgetary process as the district is preparing for a new school year.”

All schools would be impacted by the additional loss of teacher assistants, and would feel the loss of custodians or clerical staff. Further teacher reductions would have a significant impact on all schools, particularly the smaller schools that already struggle to develop a quality daily schedule with the existing staffing allocations.

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2011-2012 Chatham school budget challenges continue
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