Frugal business practices make much sense

Published 10:20 am Saturday, March 21, 2009

By Staff
That’s what Beaufort County School Board Vice Chairman F. Mac Hodges said about the county schools’ decision to keep $289,000 unallotted in its provisional budget, pending state cuts.
He was right.
Sure, the school system and the state should get a share of some allocated federal money, but it’s unclear what rules will apply to that money. It might be impossible to use the money to fill holes made when the state cuts funding.
That means the schools must work hard to avoid debilitating cuts. The last round of cuts was particularly painful, because it was unexpected and the schools were unprepared.
That shouldn’t be the case next time, especially given what the system is already doing to mitigate potential problems.
There are various hiring freezes in place, for instance, and the Beaufort County Board of Education has limited the types and distance of field trips for which it will pay.
At the same time, it is prioritizing repairs to buildings and leaving that $289,000 unspent.
The schools’ central office has already determined ways the money might be spent if it is available later. But for now, they’re leaving it in the pot for the proverbial rainy day.
That’s plain common sense.
If it wasn’t for the funding agreement between the county and the schools, the money likely wouldn’t be there at all. In many counties, local funding to the districts is dropping.
But because our schools and our county government struck a provisional deal while they fight out a lawsuit over school funding, the local contribution to the schools is guaranteed to be more this year than last.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has championed education as a priority in her budget. And it’s true, the state’s Department of Public Instruction hasn’t been subject to across-the-board cuts that some other departments have faced.
But the schools will still be hurting come budget time.
As Interim Beaufort County Schools Superintendent William Rivenbark said, this is money that could be used to keep teachers employed.
We hope the state will work with county schools to ensure cuts are made in areas that can best afford it and that the schools’ core services are protected above all else.