NCSS asks for more budget cuts

COVINGTON - Although the school system has already made significant cuts to its original 2009-10 school year budget since approving it in June, more cuts are likely to come.

As a result of state revenue cuts and expected reductions in local and state revenue, the Newton County School System is asking the Newton County Board of Education to approve more than $3 million in additional cuts to the budget.

So far, NCSS is expecting $4.5 million in state cuts and $1.5 million in reduced revenue from local sources this school year. More reductions also could come from the state, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said during Tuesday night's NCBOE monthly work session.

"This has necessitated some very hard decisions," Whatley said.

To help offset these unexpected revenue reductions, NCSS is proposing the school board approve an estimated $3,274,370 in savings.

Part of the cuts will be to personnel and benefits, which makes up 87 percent of the budget, Whatley said.

They include charging employees $21 per month for single dental, optical and hearing insurance coverage, which is currently offered at no cost. Employees with one spouse or child covered would pay $65 per month, and an employee with two or more dependents would pay $88 per month.

NCSS also is proposing a 2 percent reduction in 403b supplemental retirement contributions, from 5 percent to 3 percent.

If approved, county office positions could be further realigned and classified and certified administrators would be expected to reduce their work calendar by one additional day, which would be at the discretion of their supervisor.

Whatley also is requesting that the board approve some program reductions that include the elimination of summer school, limiting technology purchases to essential equipment and a reduction in funding for textbooks and instructional materials and operating budgets for maintenance, energy, fuel and supplies. The school board discussed the option of having some students take remediation and make-up exams like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests before the school year lets out, instead of during the summer.

"I do not make this recommendation off the top of my head," Whatley said. "We are trying to balance the needs of students and employees, and something's got to give."

The cuts still will not make up for the total budget shortfall, so any remaining funding needed to run NCSS - possibly up to $3 million more - would come from reserves.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday for its monthly regular session meeting to vote on these proposals. The meeting is held in the board room at the NCBOE building, located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.