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News Education Draft school budget includes $1.5 million from savings

Budget includes $1.5 million from savings to cover loss of federal stim money

Budget time is here again, and this year’s negotiations promise to be even more interesting than usual. At last week’s meeting of the Macon County Board of Education, a draft budget for the 2011-2012 school year was passed which anticipates cuts of up to 10 percent from state allocations this year.

Earlier in the year, school districts were instructed to produce budgets based on various reduction scenarios of 5, 10 and 15 percent as the state scrambles to cover a $3 billion budget hole brought on in part by the loss of revenue from temporary taxes that expire this year.

On top of that, school systems are facing a funding cliff due to the expiration of federal stimulus and stabilization funds, which in Macon County means a loss of more than $1.2 million in the coming budget year. In years past, the state has released a provisional budget for school systems to base their planning on, usually by February. This year, however, the intensive budget wrangling in Raleigh has meant that no such numbers were made available.

“As soon as the budget is released from the state and we all know the final outcome, it will definitely impact the local budget, either in a positive way or a negative way,” said Superintendent Dan Brigman, who expects that some budget figures will change when the state does finally adopt its official budget for the year. He added that general statute requires a draft budget from the school system by May 15 whether or not a provisional budget from the state has been released.

Board chairman Tommy Cabe said that the latest figures he has heard coming out of Raleigh indicated education cuts closer to nine percent, however he acknowledged that such estimates are bound to change.

Brigman said the state should release provisional numbers by the first of June.

Schools Finance Director, Angie Cook, said the capital outlay budget request for the district returns to the status quo of two years ago which was $500,000, all of which comes from local funding. Last year the school system was asked to forego its capital outlay funding all together.

In addition, the board is asking for a $6.9 million allocation from the county for current expenses. The request replaces the full two percent teacher supplement which the county only funded partially last year. The draft budget includes a $1.5 million appropriation out the the school system’s undesignated fund balance (recently estimated at $2.9 million total) to cover the loss of federal stimulus dollars.

“As we’ve indicated for two years, we are now covering your current expenses in this local budget through non-recurring revenue from our fund balance,” Brigman told the board.

Cook said that the district had been able to fill the gaps with funds from other sources, including federal Education Jobs Program funds, to preserve positions and services. The Education Jobs Fund program is a new Federal program that provides $10 billion in assistance to States to save or create education jobs for the 2010- 2011 school year. Jobs funded under this program include those that provide educational and related services for early childhood, elementary, and secondary education.

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