Already strapped for cash, the Newton County School Board received more bad news this week, learning that the budget would take yet another large cut after the drop in the local tax digest came in at 17 percent, which amounts to more than $300,000. This came on the heels of news from the state, that the position of pre-Kindergarten registration coordinator would no longer be grant funded.
During a called meeting of the board Wednesday afternoon, NCSS School Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley told the board about the rollback rate news. They had initially expected cuts of 10-14 percent and had begun working on the fiscal year 2011 budget accordingly.
"That’s going to amount to another $300,000 or more that we are going to have to absorb," said Whatley.
Information was also obtained late Monday evening about the elimination of the grant that has paid for the pre-k resource coordinator positions, of which there are 4.5 in Newton County. The position had been funded by a state grant but will be no longer the case.
"What the state has done is cut that program by 50 percent, only allocating, from what information I’ve gotten, 200 resource coordinators from the state," said Whatley.
There will be a competitive grant that the state can apply for, but that grant will be open to whole communities and not reserved for school systems.
"Any group within Newton County could apply for some sort of pre-k resource coordinator and we would not be guaranteed of having any service in the school system," explained Whatley. "We had not cut those positions in the budget, so now we have 4.5 positions that are not funded and unless we can get some money from the competitive grant, those would be 4.5 positions we would pick up locally, and that’s at least $180,000. At this point I would not recommend that we add that back in," he said.
"I don’t think they ought to be in the budget," said District 1 council member Johnny Smith.
"If we kept these people and made them part of our general fund budget, we could use them as we see fit," said Dr. Dennis Carpenter, Deputy Superintendent for Operations. "They don’t have to go into the state pot if we pay for them."
"But that comes down to $180,000 and our budget will probably be hit $300,000," said District 3 board member Cathy Dobbs, and Carpenter concurred.
The grant is not open to apply for until July 1. Additionally, if Newton County were to receive the grant, it would be for only one person.