On Monday evening, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners met with leaders from Jackson County Schools to talk about next year’s budget, but any outstanding fears had already been put to rest.
County Manager Ken Westmoreland said because the county has spent 12 percent less than it budgeted for the current fiscal year, he didn’t anticipate cuts in any county departments.
“I do not anticipate any furloughs, layoffs, or losses of service,” Westmoreland said. “We’re pretty much just going to tread water.”
Jackson County Public School Superintendent Sue Nations said her staff had already submitted capital outlay and operating requests to Westmoreland for consideration. The school district is asking for a 2 percent increase in funding to offset increases in insurance premiums and deep cuts in state discretionary funds.
Westmoreland said the county would evaluate the school budget request in line with its other funding obligations.
“It’s not that they would be treated any differently than any county department or agency we fund,” Westmoreland said. “I’m not anticipating any cuts or expansions.”
For her part, Nations was confident that the county would come through for the school district, but she expressed concern about Gov. Perdue’s proposed budget.
“The county will give us the amount of money we had last year, and I hope they’ll give us the 2 percent increase,” Nations said. “But the county can’t pick up what the state won’t give us.”
Perdue’s 2010 budget calls for $135 million of cuts in addition to the $304.8 million worth of discretionary cuts already contained in the budget the General Assembly approved last year for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Overall, the governor’s budget calls for an additional 3.8 percent in cuts plus another $90 million in General Fund reductions to the K-12 budget.
According to the North Carolina School Boards Association, districts across North Carolina had 16,253 fewer state paid public education jobs, including 4,701 fewer state paid classroom teachers, in the 2009-10 academic year. The additional $135 million in discretionary cuts could mean as many as 2,430 additional teaching positions could be eliminated next year.
Nations said her district already employs 95 fewer people than it did in May 2008. She said she does not intend to cut any positions this year, because she hasn’t replaced employees that have left or retired.
“I know we have to do our part. I really do,” Nations said. “But there’s a point at which it’s going to affect the classroom.”
Nations said the district would still benefit from federal stimulus money it received last year. Districts were instructed to use the money over a 27-month period, and last year the stimulus funds offset state cuts nearly dollar for dollar.