City schools readies cuts if full budget request not funded

jalexander@newsobserver.comApril 22, 2014 

— Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members, recognizing the county may not approve their full budget request, are prepared to cut $821,000 from the proposal despite its impact on the district’s 5-year long range plan.

The school system is asking for $3.87 million more in local money than it received this year to make up for state and federal budget cuts. The proposed cuts it is considering include central office staff members, gifted education specialists and service learning coordinators, based on the recommendations of principals and staff at schools.

If the school boards needs to make additional cuts, it could cut up to $2.2 million more, affecting teacher assistants, media assistants, secretaries, more gifted specialists and custodial staff.

“It depends on the county commissioners and what the Orange County Schools are asking for because there’s always an attempt – which is fair – to keep both schools at a similar level of increase,” Superintendent Tom Forcella said. “It’s tough for the county commissioners because they’re responsible for both school districts, and you have to be fair and weigh what each district is asking for.”

Parents and teachers spoke during public comment for the fourth straight meeting Thursday night, again advocating for gifted specialists and voicing their displeasure for the proposed cuts.

Vice chairwoman Mia Burroughs wanted to make it clear to the public that the board has recommended the cuts, and to not blame the superintendent.

Board member Mike Kelley urged parents to stay unified through the proposed cuts.

“This has to be a community effort,” Kelley told parents. “We have to stay together and share sacrifices. If we don’t stay together, then they win and we’ll fall apart.”

The school board voted last week to ask the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for $3.8 million for the 2014-2015 school year to make up for its shortfall, a 5.7 percent budget increase.

Of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School’s $136 million budget, nearly $67 million comes from the county. But the commissioners will also have to take into account Orange County Schools’ request. Orange County Schools has an $88 million budget with $29 million coming from the county.

Orange County Schools leaders say that they too plan to ask commisssioners for money to help out. Donna Coffey, Orange County school board chairwoman, said although she does not expect commissioners to give Orange County schools the full amount, the board will ask commissioners for $1.96 million more in local money, a 6.7 percent budget increase.

“They have to look out for their students in their way and we have to look out for our students in our way,” Coffey said. “We have two toatally different school districts and we have two totally different programs we offer. Sometimes what we’re looking for are the same, and sometimes they’re not.”

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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