On Monday, January 30th, a Budget Meeting was held by Moore County school superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey to discuss the difficulties that Moore County schools are facing in what is being called “The Perfect Storm.”
There are three main issues forcing the schools to make decisions which could result in programs being cut from schools. These issues include K-3rd grade class reductions, a depletion of the fund budget – which helps cover unforeseen costs and budget shortfalls-, and maintenance of current facilities.
The state has issued a reduction in class sizes in K-3rd grade for the 2017-2018 school year. With this reduction, Moore County elementary schools must hire an additional thirty-six teachers and build an additional twelve to twenty modular units to teach the number of students they have.
In addition to these costs, the district’s fund balance has been greatly depleted. The fund balance acts as a savings account for the school system, harboring money for necessary or unexpected expenses. The Moore County fund balance has gone from its peak balance of twelve million dollars in 2012 to a mere one million dollars in 2017 due to increased costs in driver’s education, teacher salaries, and teacher assistants. The increased teacher salary costs are caused by a decrease of state funded teachers and an increase of students.
Dr. Grimesey also covered the condition of current school buildings, many of which are in need of maintenance and improvements. Unfortunately, with the amount of funding currently provided, twenty years worth of repairs and upgrades would take fifty years.
These three issues facing the district’s budget have left it with a deficit that lies between 2.8 and 3.5 million dollars. If this deficit cannot be balanced, schools will be forced to either cut the amount from its budget or increase local funding to cover it.
Efforts have already been made to try and solve the budget crisis.
Last week the Board of Education passed a resolution calling for Moore County schools to have flexibility in determining the size of their classes in grades K-3rd.
If the district is granted this flexibility, an increased, manageable amount of students will be allowed to each teacher, greatly reducing the number of staff and modular buildings needed.
Although finding the enormous 2.8 – 3.5 million dollars needed to maintain the current standard of education in Moore County schools may seem like a daunting task, Dr. Grimesey showed that it is not impossible.
One unforeseen cost attributing to “The Perfect Storm” is charter schools. Funds for public school students transfer to charter school funds with the students as they transfer. Because the funds transfer with the student, the students are meant to be provided for. However, upon investigation of charter school budgets, it was found that more than half of students attending charter schools never attended Moore County public schools while funds were still being taken from the Moore County public school budget for those students.
Dr. Grimesey discussed this with the principles of the two Moore County charter schools who both agreed that the funds being allocated for such students should not come from the Moore County public school budget. Dr. Grimesey plans to ask the commissioners to allocate separate funds for the charter schools, saving the public schools over $735,000.
He also touched on the possibility of a couple of adjustments that could be done to aid in cutting costs. First he suggested combing rooms for extracurricular teachers who have no more than six students and using a divider to split up the room. He then suggested that the schools could have music and art carts instead of classrooms so that teachers could bring the classroom to the students. Both suggestions would cut down on the number of modular units needed.
“I have never announced that we were going to cut [art, music, or P.E.],” Dr. Grimesey said. “But our people are smart enough to look at things like this, and they know what’s coming.”
Although much is out of the hands of the parents, there are still things parents can do to be involved.
Parents are invited to attend the next Board of Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesay, February 7th at 5:30 PM at the Old Courthouse in Carthage.