03/08/06 — Duplin school board OKs budget changes

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Duplin school board OKs budget changes

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 8, 2006 1:52 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Education agreed Tuesday night to reshuffle its budget to overcome an anticipated shortfall.

Some items were underestimated when the budget was approved last year, school officials said. Board Chairman Emily Manning said officials were forecasting a $1.3 million shortfall unless money was moved from one area to another.

Money comes to the school system from the county and the state and federal governments, and not enough money was allowed for some state and local items, Manning said. The superintendent placed a freeze on school spending and asked for adjustments from finance officer Bob Tart, who came out of retirement to take over when his replacement, Gretchen Thigen, retired.

Tart presented proposed adjustments to the board, and the board approved them.

The $75 million budget, $8.8 million of it local money, includes $12 million for current expense and a $950,000 fund balance.

The adjustments use none of the fund balance and maintains the current teacher supplements, Manning said. Salaries and benefits were also unaffected.

"We have simply adjusted planned spending to reflect revenues," Tart said.

Administrators agreed to delay some projects and give up others, he said.

"We looked for things in non-salary and non-benefit places," he said.

Some places that saw cuts included the exceptional children's program, the migrant program, instructional supplies, student-support services and technology improvements. Money from a federal grant that was going to be used to train teachers was instead placed in a fund for sign-on bonuses and recruiting, which had already been overspent. The newly-hired teachers from now until the end of the fiscal year will be first in line for the next year's sign-on bonuses.

Tart said a big chunk of money was freed up by starting summer school in July rather than June. That money will go into the fund for local teacher positions.

"No area was not scrutinized," he said. "Folks gave up things. It's not a matter of finding new money. Sacrifices have been made."

"It's the tightest budget I have ever worked with. We'll have to monitor a lot more carefully and say no more often than we're used to saying no," Tart said.