Beaufort County schools face loss of 60 jobs|Board shifts funds in move to help pay for new field house

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, May 28, 2009

Staff Writer

The state’s next budget could result in the loss of more than 60 positions within the Beaufort County school system, according to local school officials.
As Laurie Modlin, finance director for Beaufort County Schools, worries the state could stop funding the positions, it isn’t yet clear if the school system would work to find local money to keep some of the jobs.
Modlin’s assessment, based on the best information available from Raleigh, where the N.C. House of Representatives is working on its budget proposal, was discussed at Wednesday’s meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Education.
“We’re still hoping that it will not be this bad, but it is very bad,” Modlin said.
She estimated the schools would stand to lose state funding for 30 teachers, 20 teaching assistants, three literacy coaches, one assistant principal and three clerical or custodial workers, possibly more workers. Various funding pools, including money for transportation and textbooks, also could be cut, she said.
The schools would use a policy that contains a combination of five criteria, including longevity of service and performance, to decide which teachers to cut, should that become necessary, said John Conway, the schools’ human-resources director.
In other business, the board shifted money earmarked for other purposes to pay for a $519,000 field house at Northside High School.
On Tuesday, county officials said they were not pleased that schools officials started that project with the assumption they could supplement the $175,000 the county allocated for the project with more county money from the upcoming budget. The county and the schools have an agreement that calls for the county to fund the schools at a set level through the next fiscal year. Wednesday night, the board adopted a new funding strategy that should prevent a showdown over funding for the project.
Some funding for the project will come from the proceeds of the sale of the former Beaufort County Ed Tech building, which generated $170,000.
The rest of the money, about $180,000, will come from funds the county has already given to the schools for construction but has not been allocated for a specific project. School officials hope to replace that money with the funds from the next fiscal year’s budget, money they had wanted to use to build the field house, said school board Chairman Robert Belcher.
“To me, it’s an accounting move, more than anything else,” he said.
Board members Eltha Booth and E.C. Peed abstained from voting.
The board also heard that the recommended low bid for construction of a new library at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School came in at $514,023. The cost had been estimated at $750,000.
Some of that money will likely go to fix the exterior walls of the gymnasium at Bath Elementary School, which are suffering from water damage and need extensive repairs, said interim Superintendent William Rivenbark. He said the schools approached the town about using cheaper metal siding to replace the brick, but the commission that oversees Bath’s historic district rejected that idea.