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Chatham schools avoid painful budget cuts

Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County School Superintendent Robert Logan told the Board of Commissioners on August 17 at the board's work session that their budget support during tough economic times means that the school system is in much better shape for the coming school year than many others.

Logan said that the school system did not have to lay off any teachers and did not have to ask for state permission to exceed the maximum class size. "All school facility projects, including renovations, are proceeding on schedule as well." He added that the school board, teachers and other employees are appreciative that major cuts impacting the classroom could be avoided this year.

Keeping the school facility projects on schedule is important because construction costs are lower than a year ago and many needs are critical. Logan said, "The projects include basic needs, such as renovated bathrooms with hot water, removal of asbestos, improved wastewater system for JS Waters School, updated science labs and the expansion at Northwood High."

As part of its adopted 2009-10 budget, Chatham County's commissioners increased overall school funding by 4%, including funds for facilities and other capital expenses. However, many local school systems are dealing with cuts in local school funding as well as state budget cuts.

For example, Durham, Orange and Lee all reported overall decreases in local school funding, while Moore County's stayed about the same. Wake County had a very small increase (less than one percent) in operating funding, but not enough to prevent its school system from cutting what is expected to be at least 600 positions, including some classroom teachers.

Randolph and Harnett counties both reported increases in school funding, but mainly due to opening new schools, which is costly. Alamance County increased school funding by just over 2% but the system still had to lay off several teaching assistants.

The state's new 2009-10 budget for public education reduced local school system funding by nearly $350 million, compared to last year. The previous year's budget also suffered major cuts mid-year when the recession began to impact state revenues.

Major statewide cuts for local school systems include: average daily membership funding for operations ($225 million), textbooks ($48 million), aid for low-performing students ($38 million), school buses & maintenance ($15 million), and non-instructional support ($10 million). However, the state budget did increase competitive grants available for dropout prevention by $13 million.

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Chatham schools avoid painful budget cuts
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