Schools brace for budget cuts

March 3, 2009 8:12:48 PM PST
The superintendent of Wake County Schools says job cuts are on the horizon if the state's economy takes any more hits.The ever-expanding Wake County School System is facing its greatest challenge yet, how to operate on less than $40 million in state funding, after a highly likely 5 percent cut.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Del Burns laid out next year's proposed budget and warned that nearly 900 jobs may be eliminated this summer.

The system will try and avoid layoffs. But in order to do so, Burns says of the 1,500 or so employees whose contracts are up this year, as many as 900 of them may not be renewed, from tutors to assistant principals.

Most vacant positions will stay that way, because of a hiring freeze and it repurposes funds to pay for only mandated salary and benefit increases.

It's just one way the system is trying to absorb the financial burden it's facing.

"My immediate reaction is that I want to throw up (laughs) I just really don't know," Wake County NCAE President Jennifer Lanane said. "I'm glad that he has been honest and put it out there and there's no sugar coating on it."

To brace for that hurricane, as the superintendent calls it, the Wake County School System's 2009-2010 budget makes permanent the $11 million reductions to state and county appropriation funds.

"We are battening the hatches as we prepare our system to weather this storm."

Wake County will spend $36 less on each student next year than it does right now. Burns says considerations for three new schools and 2,400 students are being added.

"That only leads to larger class a size, that's the only way to compensate for the money that scares me to death," parent Heather Losurdo said.

Steve Mares, the Principal of Broughton High School understands that tough times call for tough measures, but questions whether the budget will leave any room for error.

"It's hitting the classroom it's hitting teachers, personnel it's going to hit everywhere it's a hit in the stomach right now just thinking about that," Mares said.

The only thing the system is really factoring in more money for next year is higher utility costs.


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