School board presents budget request to commissioners

Published 10:52 pm Saturday, May 4, 2013

The school board met with county commissioners last week to present its 2013-2014 budget proposal.
The proposed $13.6 million budget was $50,000 more than the current budget and  $834,000 higher than the 2011-2012 budget.
Superintendent Don Phipps told commissioners the board made an extra effort to be reasonable, responsible and rational when projecting next year’s expenses.
“We really don’t have a lot of wiggle room and certainly not a lot of fluff,” he said.
When determining which capital outlay expenses the district should fund, the board deferred to those that would save money in the long run, such as replacing windows that were rusted open at Chocowinity Middle School and installing automated HVAC controls at the schools.
The county’s contribution to last year’s budget was $12.1 million.  The school board requested an increase of about $250,000 from commissioners.
Commissioner Hood Richardson asked Phipps what he would do if he had to trim down the budget.
“We would have to look at staff positions. There is nowhere else to cut,” Phipps answered.
The largest increase in the budget (about $200,000) was for the regular curriculum, which included three vacant teaching positions the board planned to fill.
There were a few other staffing changes suggested. The board proposed replacing the custodial service that cleans the central office with a new custodial position. The board also wanted to add three school assistant principals, positions that had been trimmed out of previous budgets.
“They were cuts we were trying to get by with, but felt like we couldn’t do it anymore,” Phipps said.
Rising costs were also seen in communication services, technology support and school leadership. The board expects to see an erate that would cover the communication services, but had to include $191,000 in the budget in case it did not come through.
Commissioner Al Klemm requested that the school board provide a breakdown of the technology support service expenses.
Phipps said most of the technology support funds would go toward buying computer carts for laptops that classrooms would share. The carts make it possible to charge and update all of the computers at one time.
State mandates are slowly shifting to computers for every student. The district is slowly increasing its computer stockpile to provide each student with access to a computer, if not a computer of their own.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage commended the choice of the computer carts.
One of the school board’s biggest concerns are the unfunded state mandates. Phipps mentioned a few that were in the works. Starting next year, school districts will have to offer a reading summer camp to elementary school students who are not reading at grade level. Because of grants, Beaufort County will start the summer camp a year early.
Next year, when it is a requirement, the county may not have the $300,000 it would need to fund it.
Other examples were armed officers and panic buttons for every school. Phipps said the state mandated the officers then said it would match, not cover, the funds the districts spent.
“We would have had to pay for three officers to get six,” Phipps said.
The school board will attend Monday’s county commissioner meeting in order to review a population study.
The commissioners meet at 5 p.m. Monday at the county’s administrative offices at 121 W. Third St., Washington.