BCS uses estimation to create budget

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Beaufort County Schools is working to nail down a budget for fiscal year 2016-17, but a lot of unknowns remain.

The school district receives a combination of federal, state and local funding. However, until the North Carolina General Assembly nails down its own budget, school officials are left guessing for local-level funding, according to Dr. Don Phipps, superintendent of Beaufort County Schools.

As has been the case in past years, the district is faced with the task of maintaining its services with less money, and local funds may not cover all of the cuts at the state level, as the schools’ “rainy day” fund balance is almost gone, he said.

Phipps said school officials met with principals and department heads Monday night to determine any areas that could potentially withstand cuts, and are now preparing an official request for funding for the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. He said the district hopes to present the request to the commissioners by the end of April, although the official deadline is May 15.

He said Beaufort County Schools will likely request about $13.2 million from the county commissioners, a slight increase that would be included in a total operating budget of approximately $58 million.

“It’s a difficult process because you’re having to make a request to the commissioners, but you aren’t really sure what the funding will look like on the state side,” he said. “You’re doing the best you can to try to get a reasonable estimate.”

Phipps said one of the main issues at this point is Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent announcement that there could potentially be a 5-percent average pay raise for teachers, and the cost of retirement may also increase. He said the question is what the term “average” means and whether the state will allocate funding to accommodate the increases.

“There are a lot of challenges and lots of hurdles that you’ve got to get through,” Phipps said. “There’s just lots of moving parts.”

He said the school district has been looking at budget plans since November, and to make the process go more smoothly, prioritized capital projects into two-to-five-year goals and six-to-10-year goals.

“We keep, you know, tweaking that as we look at what our list is,” Phipps said.

After school officials present a request to the commissioners, the county commissioners must then compile a budget of its own based upon the requests from other county entities. Then, after the school district learns its set amount of funding from the county, it can reassess federal and state funds to make further changes to the schools’ budget, he said.

“What we’re trying to determine is what do we need to have in place next year,” Phipps said. “We try to take our time. … In terms of time, there’s a really strong commitment of three or four months of good solid work on it.”