The Sampson County Board of Education recently received a budget with some numbers in red. District officials are facing a budget reduction of more than 6 percent or more than $700,000 for the upcoming school year. Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said he has to be very diligent and conservative with taxpayers’ money.
“In the last few years, we hit our fund balance for pretty significant amounts,” Bracy said. “We need to stop doing that. “We’re going to conserve as many dollars as we can.”
Finance officer W. Dale McLamb presented the numbers during a recent school board work session.The total of all expected revenue for the 2014-15 school year is $11,118,409 million, which is a $723,027 decrease from the previous school year.
“We’re looking at cutting our expenses as much as we can throughout the different departments,” McLamb said, noting that it was the first time he recalled having to reduce numbers in the budget.
“We’ve always been able to build or grow what we had,” McLamb stressed.
He reported that the system’s fund balance continues to decrease. In three years, the fund balance decreased from $3.8 million to $1.9 million.
“To build that fund balance back up, we should have three months of money in our fund balance to cover expenses,” McLamb said. “To do that, we have to make some reductions.That’s what this budget implies, and that’s $723,000.”
The listed fund balance to appropriate to meet the system’s needs is more than $1.6 million. Last year it was more than $2.3 million.
“Hopefully we will not spend that,” McLamb said.
The finance officer reported that state allotments were down in certain areas A big hit was teacher assistants. The planning allotment was $2.6 million, but now it’s set at $2.1 million.
He said they’ve always been able to move $500,000 or $600,000 into a low-wealth allotment for programs. The low-wealth total is more than $4.5 million.
“This year we don’t have that option,” he said. “That’s right on the money of what we’re going to spend.”
The budget included the average 7 percent salary adjustments for teachers, which was recently approved by state legislators. McLamb said the $500 bonus for certified or non-certified employees was also built into the budget.
The county schools are expected to have an average of 8,538 students, a decrease of more than 40 students. The total Sampson County appropriation is $7,513,440, a 2.11 increase from the previous school year. That amount is based on $880 per student.
“That helped us and we thank the county for that,” he said.
Some of the other decreases included pay for substitute teachers, printing, instructional equipment, workshops, development programs and travel pay.
Money for athletic and band supplies for the four middle schools has been cut in half, resulting in a total of $4,000 in that line item.
Under non-instructional personnel, two custodial positions were cut, which saved the system $50,000.
Transportation also decreased from $123,724 to $92,948. Some of the reductions include bus drivers’ salaries, telecommunications, supplies and repair parts.
McLamb also presented a capital outlay budget of $667,400. From that total, $285,300 will be used for district-wide improvements. Some of them include security, fire systems, painting, roof maintenance and asbestos removal.
The remaining $382,100 will go towards upgrades at various schools throughout the county. Some of the large projects include bathroom ADA compliance upgrades at Lakewood High School ($25,000), sand trap replacement at Midway Elementary ($25,000) and gym partition at Midway High School ($17,000).
The board is scheduled to pass or reject the budget during its next board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25 at the Central Office, 437 Rowan Road.
“As a team we all need to work together to build this balance level back to where it needs to be,” McLamb said.