School Budget Process Underway

SNOW HILL — A preliminary budget for fiscal year 2014 from the Worcester County Board of Education will be about 1 percent, or roughly $1 million, higher than last year and include funding for the county’s popular afterschool programs, several of which lost grant support over the summer.

Costs are on the rise across the board, according to Chief Financial Officer Vince Tolbert, which is the main reason the budget has ballooned slightly.

“At this time, we are anticipating increases next year in insurances, technology and school construction,” he wrote in a report to the board.

Though reductions to the budget of $153,895 have been factored into the FY14 estimates, Tolbert explained that technology increases, like utilizing broadband internet and rising health care costs, overshadow any reductions. There is also a $100,000 request included this year for a feasibility study for Showell Elementary School (SES) renovations.

“Based on current expenditure estimates, additional FY14 revenues of approximately $1,150,315 will be required to maintain existing staff, student programs and services,” he wrote. “This includes $300,000 for our after-school programs which were partially funded in FY13 by one-time county supplemental funding.”

It is worth noting that the board’s budget last year was $92,167,401 with $73,136,477 or 79.3 percent coming from the County Commissioners.

Tolbert also touched on some potential additional costs that might have to be added to the budget during the evaluation period this winter.

“As you are aware, [faculty] salary negotiations are ongoing and the proposed budget does not currently include any funding for salary increases,” he said.

Conversely, the board could see some unknown savings from retiring staff this year. Tolbert anticipated that those numbers will be available in early February.

The budget presented to the board is only a first draft. A public budget work session is currently scheduled for Feb. 5 where parents, faculty, or other interested members of the community will be able to offer suggestions and priorities for the coming year’s budget. Once all of that input has been received, the board is set to officially adopt a Proposed Operating Budget on Feb. 19. However, the County Commissioners will still have the final vote on what happens with the lion’s share of the funding.