Polk County Schools waiting for state budget

Published 12:56 pm Friday, September 17, 2010

Local North Carolina schools have been in session for the 2010-11 academic year for two weeks, but Polk County Schools is still without an operating budget because funds have yet to arrive from the state level.

Were operating as if we know what the budget is, said Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller. We should be able to present a budget and for the board to take action on it at the October meeting.

When the budget is released by the state, Miller said he expects a shortfall that will have to be made up by local coffers. He said he also expects there to be mid-year cuts at the state level that the local districts will also have to swallow.

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Were going to have to see how many dollars are needed from our savings in order to balance the budget, Miller said.

At the state level, administrators are trying to decide the amount of funds that are to be given to charter schools for each student from their local school districts. That issue ended up in court after the current state budget included a provision that would limit the amount of money charter schools will receive. Prior lawsuits by charter schools have ruled that some school districts have unfairly withheld funds from charter schools due to accounting practices.

The opening of the Lake Lure Classical Academy, a charter school, for the 2010-11 school year will have an effect on the Polk County Schools budget, but will not cut nearly as deeply as the N.C. Department of Public Instruction had predicted. That agency estimated that about 100 students from Polk County would attend Lake Lure Classical Academy.

Polk County Schools administrators said 34 county residents are attending the new Lake Lure charter school and a handful of others are at Thomas Jefferson Academy in Rutherfordton and The Mountain Community School in Henderson County.

This past summer, Polk County Schools officials trimmed more than $300,000 from the potential budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year with staff reductions, most of which were accomplished by attrition.

Were waiting to get a final number on redirecting the local school systems having to pay an unspecified amount for the N.C. Virtual Public High School, said Miller of known upcoming changes to the budget. Well wait until after the first 20 days of school to know more about that, and were waiting for the state to make the final call on the 34 students at the charter school at Lake Lure.

State-level funding was cut for UNC-Greensboros I-School program, which partnered with public school districts, including Polk County Schools, to provide students the opportunity to receive college credit for courses taken through the I-School program at no charge to the student.

Without that partnership, district administrators are seeking a way to continue the program through Isothermal Community College.