Board of Education News, May 3rd, 2024 with a graphic of a gavel

Special Called Board of Education Meeting May 3, 2024

During today's special called Board of Education meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Harrison shared a proposed budget presentation for the 2024-2025 school year. He reminded everyone that this is a draft, and the Board of Education will vote on the proposal at the next regularly-scheduled Board work session on Tuesday, May 14, at 12:30 pm. The budget request for the next school year must be presented to the Alamance County Board of Commissioners by May 15 each year.

ABSS Draft Recommended Budget for 2024-2025

Recorded Video

Dr. Harrison gave an overview of the district's financial position. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, ABSS had a fund balance of $7 million but spent $3.5 million of that to balance the budget. At the end of the 2022-2023 year, ABSS used an additional $3.5 million to balance the budget again, leaving approximately $103,000 in the fund balance. Currently, the district has a budget deficit of $3.5 million and is using $7.5 million in federal ESSER funding that ends in 2024. ABSS is not alone; multiple school districts across North Carolina and the nation are dealing with similar budget shortfalls and the loss of federal ESSER funding. He mentioned that New Hanover County Schools and Person County Schools, among others, are having similar conversations about addressing their significant budget shortfalls.

ABSS is addressing the current year's $3.5 million deficit by combining flexible funding sources (state, local, federal, and ESSER) to balance the 2023-2024 budget.

For the 2024-2025 school year, if ABSS fails to take action to find $7.5 million in reductions, the district will be in the same position again this time next year with a budget deficit and no ESSER funding or fund balance to balance the budget. Dr. Harrison stressed that the Board of Education would need to approve this proposal to send to the Board of Commissioners, and the commissioners would need to approve the request. Otherwise, the district will have to identify more cuts to balance next year's budget.

Dr. Harrison outlined the difficulty in making recommendations for proposed cuts and emphasized the valuable contributions of every staff member in ABSS. He used the analogy that ABSS has "kicked the can down the road for three years, and now it has hit the wall." He stated that what is being proposed today is the reasonable, responsible way to ensure financial stability. Dr. Harrison shared that the district needs to get back on solid financial footing now so that the next superintendent can focus on leading the district and not have to deal with financial issues.

Fortunately, ABSS will be able to address position cuts through attrition and vacancies if the board approves this proposed budget at the May 14 meeting. Dr. Harrison outlined the proposed deficit corrective actions to reach the total of $7.5 million in cuts. He emphasized that there is not a position listed in the potential cuts that is not important, and the district will feel the loss.

Dr. Harrison emphasized that this budget proposal will make ABSS deficit-neutral, but it will still have no fund balance. The district will have to work over the next few years to rebuild a healthy fund balance.

Board members expressed concerns with each of the recommended cuts and stressed the need to notify staff members impacted of their options as soon as possible if this proposal is approved on May 14. Board members also expressed the importance of the work that all ABSS staff members do to support students and their families.

Dr. Harrison stressed that the top priority of the district is to ensure sound educational leadership, but the management issue of resolving the budget deficit must be addressed now before a new superintendent comes on board.

After much discussion and many questions, Dr. Harrison asked board members to provide further input and additional questions as soon as possible. He wants to ensure that staff members facing a potential impact to their positions can be given more information in a timely manner.

The Board of Education will meet to vote on the proposal at the May 14 work session.