Superintendent Presents Budget Recommendation to BOE

Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green unveiled his recommended operating budget of $626,541,473 for 2012-13 during the Guilford County Board of Education meeting Tuesday. This budget recommendation includes adjustments to accommodate a $13.27 million loss in one-time federal Education Jobs funds, an additional $5.21 million anticipated cut in state funding and a $5.05 million increase in operating costs, items previously funded privately and new initiatives to be addressed via redirection of existing resources. These cuts come on top of reductions in state funding from previous years that total more than $40 million.

Superintendent Green's recommended budget of $626,541,473 (excluding capital and enterprise funds, such as child nutrition and After-School Care Enrichment Services) included a request for an additional $9.83 million in funding from the Board of County Commissioners to help sustain operations ($5.35 million) and provide a small, but important, 1 percent raise for GCS employees ($4.48 million), with the exception of the superintendent. This raise would be the first all GCS employees have received in at least three years. Green also recommended that the Board request $7 million in capital outlay appropriation from the County.

According to the 2012 Quality Counts report released by "Education Week," North Carolina received a C+ for educational quality overall - including an A for school accountability and an F for state spending on its K-12 public schools.

"The reality we face is that we will continue to have to strive to do more with less, which places an unfair burden on our children and our community not just for one year, but for an entire generation," said Superintendent Green. "This recommended budget continues to direct resources to our classrooms and provides a small raise for our outstanding employees who have weathered the economic hardships with us and continue to foster learning in our schools."

In anticipation of deeper cuts in state funding, the loss of federal stimulus dollars, and with the realization that the local economic recovery remains tepid, GCS enacted measures to reduce expenses and conserve funds, including:

• Using reorganization and attrition to reduce positions, placing current employees in key instructional and school-based positions whenever possible in order to reduce the total personnel count;

• Holding $10.66 million in reserve for 2012-13 to offset the loss of federal stimulus dollars;

• Holding $5.93 million or 50 percent of Weighted Student Formula funding normally allotted to schools in abeyance;

• Continuing the central office reductions and redirections from this fiscal year, which will reduce costs by about $4 million;

• Generating an additional $2.54 million in redirections and reductions from central office divisions and departments;

• Generating $1.14 million in savings by increasing the class size student-teacher ratio by .25 students in grades K-12 that would be used only if necessary, eliminating approximately 23 teaching positions district-wide; and,

• Generating another $400,000 savings in student transportation costs, thanks to the multi-tier system approved by the Board of Education last spring.

Despite massive cuts in state funding, financial support at the local level from the Board of County Commissioners has been more stable. Combined with federal stimulus dollars and GCS fiscal measures, local funding has helped us keep GCS employees on-the-job, despite eliminating more than 430 positions since 2008.

While revenues continue to decrease, many expenses, including some that are beyond district control, continue to rise. In order to sustain current operations levels, GCS must pay cost increases for a number of items, many representing state or legal mandates. These include student enrollment growth for GCS and charters ($1.74 million); state mandated benefits ($1.46 million); energy ($1.4 million); gas/fuel ($462,609); principal start-up costs for the new autism wings ($74,945) and non-employee insurance premiums ($210,430), among others. Taken together, these cost increases total more than $5.35 million.

The superintendent's proposed budget reflects the following reductions:

• Continuation of 2009-10 state reductions = - $20.72 million

• Continuation of 2010-11 state reductions = - $10.42 million

• Continuation of 2011-12 state reductions = - $11.05 million

• GCS' share of projected 2012-13 losses in state funds = - $5.21 million

• Total rolling forward for 2012-13 = -$47.4 million

With fewer resources, GCS students and staff continue to make progress toward achieving educational excellence. The district graduation rate in 2011 was higher than the state average; the graduation rate for the Class of 2011 was 83.1 - up from 80.7 percent the year before. North Carolina's graduate rate stands at 77.9 percent. In addition, eight GCS high schools earned a perfect 100 percent graduation rate; there were only 23 in the entire state. Six high schools had graduation rates between 90 and 99 percent. In addition, the Class of 2011 earned more than $121 million in scholarships - about $11.2 million more than the previous year's record amount.

The school board will review and discuss the superintendent's recommendations during a work session that begins at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24. The meeting will be held in the Board Room of the district administrative office at 712 N. Eugene St., Greensboro. The public hearing for the budget is tentatively scheduled to be held during the board meeting on Thursday, April 26.

School board meetings begin at 6 p.m. and are held in the Eugene Street Board Room. The school board must adopt a proposed budget and present it to the county by May 15.