Board OKs budget

Published 1:20 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Education, during its meeting Monday night, chose to save — rather than spend — money when it approved its local current expense budget for 2010-2011.
The resulting plan — what board Chairman Robert Belcher called a “lean and austere” budget — saves money for the future by bolstering the schools’ contingency fund and adds no new employees to be paid from local coffers.
But even as they approved it, school leaders cautioned that the 2010-2011 current expense budget likely will change between now and the start of the 2010-2011 school year, if the state Legislature imposes additional cost-cutting measures on public schools when lawmakers approve the state’s budget later this year.
“This is just a first step,” said Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps. “We don’t know what kind of budget amendments we’re going to be dealing with later this year.”
The current expense budget of $13.2 million for 2010-2011 is an increase of $592,150, or about 4.6 percent, over the current budget of $12.6 million.
After consulting with county leaders, the board voted not to include $185,406 in salary and benefits for four teaching positions in the local budget.
Phipps, initially, included the positions in the local budget he presented to the board Thursday in an effort to offset the effects of expected state cuts that will eliminate 15 teaching positions in the local public schools.
He removed those positions from a revised budget presented to the board Monday.
Phipps also removed from the local spending plan presented Monday $54,636 in salary and benefits for a new administrative position at S.W. Snowden Elementary School.
Instead, the revised budget presented by Phipps and approved by the board increases the contingency, or unbudgeted fund, $276,587 over the budget presented to the board Thursday for a total of $283,485 set aside for the rainy-day fund.
“The (county) commissioners agreed that a conservative approach would be to build the fund balance,” Phipps said. “It will be a tightening of the belt for our schools.”
He said the county’s schools likely can absorb through attrition the loss of 15 teaching positions expected from state budget cuts.
Last week, the board unanimously approved a $1.5 million capital budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and it decided to seek bids for both options for the Washington High School roof — its top priority for construction projects during the coming fiscal year.
In other business, the board:
• Unanimously approved a new drug-testing policy that will go into effect during the 2010-2011 school year.
• Gave tentative approval to the 2010-2011 Code of Student Conduct. The publication for the coming school year has been revamped to focus on student discipline, according to Patrick Abele, executive director for Learning Services. The schools will provide parents with copies of policies that are not included in the manual but are required by law to be given to them, Phipps told the board.
• Approved a summer-hours schedule for Central Services staff that gives employees two options for their work hours from June 14 to Aug. 13 that would enable interested employees to work longer hours Mondays through Thursdays and take a day off from work Fridays. All offices would have at least one employee working Fridays. 
• Approved project requests from two civic clubs. The board okayed an essay contest for seventh- and eighth-grade students and a Service-Above-Self recognition program for high-school students requested by the Washington (Noon) Rotary Club. It also OK’d a request by the Pine Needles Garden Club to plant four crepe myrtle trees at John Small Elementary School.
• Delayed approval of the instructional calendar for the Beaufort County Early College High School to ensure that the calendar coincides with the academic calendar for Beaufort County Community College.
All board members attended the meeting.