The Stokes County School Board has approved a final budget for the 2015-16 school year.
Finance Director Lanette Moore said local funding for this school year was $953,058 less than requested by the school board and the system was facing a total of $497,468 in reductions in state funding this year.
As a result the board had to transfer funding from other sources, including its fund balance, to balance the budget.
The final approved budget pulls $304,164 from textbook funding to fund 6.27 teacher positions, appropriates $291,066 from a Medicaid fund balance to fill six teaching positions, pulls $48,511 from Medicaid revenue to fund one teaching position, counts on 1.5 teaching positions not being filled due to absences for a savings of $72,767 and uses $48,838 in technology funding to help fund tutoring programs at the schools.
Moore said even with those savings the board would still need to pull an additional $203,130 from its fund balance, leaving the system with only $312,438 in the fund balance.
This year the school system used a total of $713,839 from the fund balance to balance its final budget.
“It is pretty sad,” said Board Chair Sonya Cox. “This is the worst budget I have ever seen.”
Moore warned that the school system would not have much fund balance to address needs next year.
“Look at how much you had to appropriate this year to balance it,” she said. “You will not have that next year when you go the county commissioners.”
Several board members noted that the system’s auditors had warned that they needed to protect what was left of the fund balance.
“We do not have enough to do anything if there is an emergency,” said Pat Messick. “There is not enough money in the fund balance if there is a dire emergency. We cannot fund it. We have gotten to that point. It is a frightening place to be in.”
Moore noted that the school board needed to have a serious conversation with school principals about the financial situation.
“We need to start talking to them about next year and see what we can cut back position-wise,” she said. “We have to have that conversation. They need to take this very seriously.”
Human Resources Director Melissa Jessup said she would prefer the board look at programs and software that could be discontinued before considering cutting positions in the future.
“We have allocated the max that the state allows you to allot teachers,” she said. “We have classrooms that are bursting with kids.
“The next step you are looking at if you cut people is you are going to have more combination classes,” said Jessup. “You are going to have math and science classes with probably over 30 students in them at the middle school and high school levels. Our Exceptional Children count is also increasing. There are a lot of state and federal mandates that are impacting what we are doing in the classroom. If we could cut a computer program over someone losing a job I think that is what you would want to do.”
But Moore said the system may not have many choices.
“If there is no money then something has to go,” she said. “Everyone has to realize how seriously we are having to deal with this. This board has done a good job of saving positions, but we cannot continue to do so. Something is going to have to go unless additional funding comes from the county.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.