2/21/12 School budgeting process begins

School budgeting process begins
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 2/21/12     
Reprinted with permission.

  Alamance-Burlington School System leaders are expecting a tough budget year in 2012-13.    And they’re getting started on the difficult process of determining how much money there will be to spend, where to spend it and where to make cuts.

   It won’t be long before Alamance-Burlington Board of Education members start getting information from system administrators. During a recent work session, board members received this timeline projecting when they will get information and make decisions:   

  • March 12:  School board members will get a preliminary budget during a work session. Between now and then, central office administrators will meet to start discussion of budget needs, while departments will explore “potential reduction opportunities.”   
  • March 26:  The school board will hold a public hearing on the 2012-13 budget. After the hearing, Superintendent Lillie Cox and other system employees will draft a budget.   
  • April 2:  Representatives of the school system will present its funding request at an Alamance County Board of Commissioners retreat meeting.   
  • June 4:  The Board of Commissioners will get a preliminary budget document from the county manager.   
  • June 18:  The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2012-13 budget, approve a budget and send notification to the school system about the amount of money it will receive from the county for 2012-13.

   School board member Tony Rose said he hopes the board will be in as strong a position as possible to make informed decisions about cuts or other budget matters. Last year, the school board approved measures based on projections from then-interim Superintendent Del Burns that funding from the state would be significantly less than it eventually was. Those measures included laying off 14 central office employees.

   Cox and other board members noted, with Rose not disagreeing, that timing issues have often forced the system to make decisions without knowing how much money it will get from the state.

   Board member Patsy Simpson noted the expectation is that cuts will happen, given the state’s continued budget problems and the fact the system won’t have more than $4 million in federal money it had for the 2011-12 budget.

   The board did not renew discussion of how much of its fund reserve it might use to minimize cuts during 2012-13. Board members have said a key goal is to avoid laying off teachers and others involved in classroom instruction.

   As part of the budget process, school board chairwoman Jackie Cole said, the board has “a responsibility to make known what our needs are” to educate students even during tight financial times.