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School proposal may be cut 5%

by Larry S. Chowning

It could be back to the budget drawing board for school superintendent Rusty Fairheart and the Middlesex County School Board.

On March 24, county administrator Charles Culley informed county supervisors that Middlesex faces an $800,000 shortfall in the current 2008-09 (FY09) county budget.

To make up for this shortfall, Culley is recommending that the board of supervisors cut 5 percent in local funds from the upcoming 2009-10 (FY10) school budget.

If supervisors accept Culley’s recommendations, county funding for schools will be $450,000 less in FY10 than in the current FY09 budget.

Included in Culley’s recommended $450,000 cut is $350,000 for school operations and $100,000 earmarked for the purchase of new textbooks. (The state does not require the county to purchase new textbooks in FY10.)

The school system has already trimmed $269,000 from its proposed FY10 budget due to a decrease in state funding. These cuts include reducing coaching supplements; making current 11-month social worker and 11-month psychologist positions into 10-month positions; reducing purchasing services for technology; deferring technology equipment purchases.

However, Culley’s recommended $450,000 in new local cuts has not been addressed by the school board.

Two weeks ago, Fairheart reported that the school system would only have to slightly reduce its staff in the upcoming school year—if the county provides the same amount of local funds as in the current FY09 budget.

Fairheart has made it clear that cuts in local funds in the upcoming budget would force the school system to eliminate more programs and jobs, which he’d rather do through attrition.

However, now with the possibility of losing $350,000 in local operating funds, there is serious concern that the school system may have to cut more jobs and programs.

Culley’s recommended cuts would have to be approved by a vote of the board of supervisors before becoming official.

The supervisors will hold a budget workshop today, April 2, at 1 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Saluda.

Stimulus funds

Middlesex schools will receive $283,000 in federal stimulus money through the state. These funds can go toward the general operation of the schools.

However, even with these stimulus funds, the school board’s proposed F10 budget reflects a $143,515 decrease in state funds compared to the current FY09 budget. The decrease is due to substantial state budget cuts made before the stimulus funds became available.

The next regular school board meeting will be on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Saluda. The public is invited to attend.

posted 04.01.2009

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