• 57°

Board of Education seeks to rein in fund balance appropriation

While the Beaufort County Board of Education passed its budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year by unanimous vote on Wednesday, the group faces a challenging process in July as it seeks ways to reduce a $508,479 fund balance appropriation needed to balance the coming year’s $63.5 million budget.

The board discussed the budget in detail during its most recent meeting, with some board members voting to approve the document on the condition that it is revisited and amended in July.

According to Interim Superintendent Mark Doane, at the closeout of 2017-18, the school system had only spent $172,000 of a budgeted $350,000 fund balance appropriation for that fiscal year. Doane informed the board that this leaves approximately $1.5 million in the school system’s fund balance going into 2018-19.

Three items that present a significant challenge for the school system are increases in fixed costs. Between increases in retirements, hospitalizations and salaries, these three items added up to an additional $472,375 in the coming year’s budget.

“We don’t control that, and the county appropriations have been static in the sense that they have not increased to account for those,” Doane explained to the board. “That is really what is putting us in a deeper financial hole. Even if we keep everything level in terms of staffing, those are expenses we cannot control, so what we are doing is appropriating fund balance to essentially take care of those added mandates.”

Even with the fund balance appropriation, the school system is losing a total of 11 teaching positions this coming school year, seven of which are locally funded and four of which are federally funded. Positions added include an instructional technology facilitator, a certified teacher for elementary mental health and a district-wide mental health professional.

Highlights from the school system’s $1,115,695 capital budget include $377,000 to replace failing chillers at Northside and Southside high schools, $350,000 for technology improvements, and $150,000 for system-wide safety and security upgrades.