School Board Makes Cuts To Create Reserve Fund

NEWARK – With $1.2 million in proposed
education funding cuts, the Worcester County Board of Education has identified
money from its budget to create a contingency fund to handle future budget
overruns.

“The County Commissioners
have advised us that additional funds will not be available at the end of the
year if we expect unanticipated costs,” said Ed Barber, assistant
superintendent of schools for administration at Tuesday’s Board of Education
meeting.

A June 19 letter from the County Commissioners
reads in part, “…we believe that early intervention and budget action must be
taken in future years to avoid a recurrence of this dilemma. As a result, we
are requesting that you prepare a plan for a balanced budget with appropriate
contingencies in your FY 09 budget which will enable the Board of Education to
operate within the approved revenues and will ensure that a supplemental
appropriation will not be needed in future years.”

Board of Education staff has
worked on creating the cuts since a contentious June 17 meeting between
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes and the County Commissioners
over year-end overruns.

The school board could exceed
its budget again next year with rising energy costs and maintenance on old
school buildings, but any future overruns will be the responsibility of the
school board, requiring cuts in the current budget to create this contingency
fund.

“These would all be reductions
to the budget as adopted by the Board of Education and approved by the County Commissioners,”
Barber explained to the school board at the July 15 meeting.

A $625,000 cut to supplies and
materials for schools and administration makes up half the contingency fund of
$1,260,485.

Employee tuition reimbursement
would be limited, reduced by $95,000, under the fund proposal.

“We will not be able to
reimburse any course work that is not absolutely required,” Barber said.

Teachers are contractually
required to earn Masters degrees in teaching and are reimbursed by their school
system for class costs.

Equipment funding for schools
and administration would be trimmed by $86,000. Staff development would take a
$55,000 hit and engaging long-term substitutes hired in place of contract
teaching positions would save $60,000. School field trip money would go down by
$22,000, and the perfect attendance trip would be canceled. A $5,000 reduction
in staff travel to state meetings was also proposed.

Increased rates for outside use
of school buildings should add a projected $2,500 to the contingency fund.

“We’re proposing the rates
increase by 40 percent,” said Barber. “That’s not an arbitrary number. We tried
to look at actual costs.”

Building improvement projects
will also be put off.

“We will also be postponing some
capital program things we’d hoped to accomplish this summer,” Barber said.

Putting off installation of
elementary school wireless networks would allow $190,000 to be redirected to
the contingency fund. Another $99,000 would be realized for the fund by pushing
back four fiscal year 2009 capital projects: playground maintenance; portable
classroom maintenance; bathroom upgrades at Berlin
Intermediate School;
and the generator wall at Ocean
City Elementary
School.

The proposed fund transfers to create
the contingency fund must be approved by the County Commissioners,
which will consider the proposal on Aug. 5.

“Obviously, it’s very difficult
and very challenging to cut these programs,” said Board of Education Vice
President Bob Hulburd. “These are going to have impacts on what we do in
classrooms for our kids.”

 

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