Polk projects schools will need $100-150k more next year

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

With stimulus money gone for Polk County Schools next year, school and Polk County officials are trying to estimate how much money will need to come from the county to keep all programs running.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners held a budget workshop Monday, Jan. 23 and discussed the financial outlook for the school system with Superintendent Bill Miller.
Miller said he and county manager Ryan Whitson have discussed that the county may need to contribute an additional $100,000 to $150,000 next fiscal year to help make up the shortfall.
That contribution would be much less than the $400,000 additional money the county gave the schools this fiscal year.
“We’re always trying to guess what’s going to happen in Raleigh and don’t know until June or July,” Miller said. “Next year the crystal ball situation remains in regards to what will happen with the state. The stimulus money is all gone.”
The school system had received approximately $548,000 in stimulus money, contributions it will no longer receive.
Miller said to make up for the loss, the school system plans to take money out of fund balance, get some from the county and hopefully have leftover savings from this fiscal year.
Miller also said the schools have had a couple of resignations and are planning to save money by combining some programs and not hiring replacements. Miller said the good news is the school system has had significant saving in energy costs because of a mild winter so far.
“As much as half of that savings we may not use and can roll over to next year,” said Miller.
In discussions with state representatives, Miller said it appears the state is going to try to hold the line on education cuts next year and not cut any more than it did this year.
Commissioner Chair Ray Gasperson asked how much longer the school system can pull from its fund balance.
Miller responded that he’s hoping the schools won’t have to spend fund balance to operate much longer. Miller said he thinks education is first on the state’s agenda to try to restore some of that funding.
“We can’t [spend fund balance] indefinitely, but we could for a few more years,” Miller said.
Other school topics Monday included that the More-At-Four preschool program has been restored with state funding. Miller said the one preschool class at Polk Central not included this year is going to begin now and continue until the end of the year.
There has also been a change in lottery funding allocations, which Miller said will help Western North Carolina. Currently, lottery funds can be spent only on capital improvements and Miller said Polk County has been saving lottery funds for when major capital is needed, such as a new roof on the high school.
Polk County commissioners are beginning budget discussions, with Whitson scheduled to present a balanced budget to commissioners on May 7. A budget work session for commissioners will be held on May 14 at 5 p.m., with other sessions scheduled for May 15 and May 16 if necessary.
The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 11, with commissioners planning to adopt the budget on June 18.
The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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