2009-06-03 / School News

BOE takes up smaller spending plan

By Anne Marie Kyzer annemariek@thetruecitizen.com

The Burke County Board of Education is reversing course this go-round.

BOE members are expected to tentatively adopt a 2009-2010 budget next week that substantially scales back school spending. Over the previous three years, the system's budget had increased about $7.5 million, but the proposed $40.2 million budget for 2010 is more than $4 million less than last year's plan.

Nearly every department includes major cuts as directors try to save on everything from office supplies to computer software. Efforts to downsize were bolstered by the retirement of several system veterans, saving the system more than $1 million in salaries and benefits alone.

The only major portion of the budget expected to show an increase is student services, accounting for a new student information system to be imple- mented this year.

"Any place we could find to squeeze down, we have done that," Superintendent Linda Bailey said.

Despite the cuts, the system could still end up in the red at the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The proposed budget shows a possible $3.7 million deficit, and school officials are calling revenue projections uncertain. The state continues to make deeper cuts in education and nearly every other department as tax revenues plummet.

BOE members remained adamant that raising taxes would not likely be their answer to dealing with the potential deficit.

"We're trying to get out of a recession, and raising taxes is no way to get out of a recession," chairman Johnny Jenkins said.

Vice chairman Willie Latimore said he would rather "sweat it out" than raise taxes while more and more people are out of work.

After reviewing every spending category ranging from copier rentals to travel, board members appeared poised to tentatively approve the spending plan at their meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 9.

ALSO AT NEXT WEEK'S MEETING

Charter school report

A special charter school committee is expected to make a recommendation to BOE members next Tuesday. The committee was charged with evaluating the proposed Boggs Charter Academy, which would enroll at-risk middle school students. The Boggs Community Development Corporation presented the petition in hopes of operating the charter school under the umbrella of the local school system.

BOE members have until June 26 to make a decision on the petition.

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