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Mecklenburg County schools estimate early $500,000 deficit / February 27, 2013
The preliminary school budget for the upcoming fiscal year carries a potential deficit of nearly $500,000, said Mecklenburg County Superintendent of Schools James Thornton as he unveiled the package for school trustees Monday night.

Thornton explained his budget priorities for the coming year, noting that some items are mandated under state law:

Paying an additional 1 percent into the Virginia Retirement System to make up for underpayments in prior years. This step, required by law, will cost the school division approximately $53,200.

Leasing of 11 new buses at a cost of $220,000. This will allow the school system to replace 11 buses every two years to maintain its fleet.

Restoring a Central Office position at a cost of $70,000. This employee would focus on expanding Career and Technical Education offerings for both Park View and Bluestone High School. Thornton said he would like to see courses in HVAC, electrical, and perhaps furniture building added to the curriculum.

Raising the pay for all instructional staff, including administrators, by 2 percent, at a cost of $460,000.

Paving the parking lots at four elementary schools to redirect the flow of car and bus traffic and improve the safety of students as they arrive at or depart from school. The cost for repaving the lots at all four elementary schools is $124,000.

Giving bus and car drivers a 5 percent pay raise, at a cost of $68,035.

Dedicating an additional $80,000 for dual enrollment fees.

Not included in the category of workers who might receive a salary increase are cafeteria workers, maintenance staff and school secretarial staff. Additionally, there are no pay raises for janitors included in the draft budget since, as of this year, they work for a private employer, not Mecklenburg County Public Schools.

Much work remains to be done to firm up the new budget, which goes into effect July 1, 2013 with the onset of the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The most important variable yet to be settled is the amount of state funding for local schools, a number that won’t be determined until the General Assembly completes its budget.

Trustees are being asked to consider several cost cutting measures to offset the spending increases tied to Thornton’s priorities. They include eliminating seven teaching positions through attrition, one assistant principal position, and the Bluestone High School auto teacher, a reading specialist at South Hill Elementary, and a special education teacher.

Additionally, Thornton proposed eliminating the stipend paid to teachers who participate in the HEROES program, and reducing technology expenditures by $80,000.

In all, Thornton said his streamlining efforts would reduce expenditures by over $650,000, but still leave a budget gap of $465,235.

Several revenue factors will affect the 2013/2014 budget and add to the projected deficit. Declining enrollment in Mecklenburg County Public Schools means that even with the state providing additional money for instructional staff pay raises, Mecklenburg County will most likely receive less money from the state than in prior years. The amount of money each school district receives from the state is tied to average daily enrollment.

Also, if the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors does not increase education spending by at least 2 percent next year, said Thornton, the school division will not qualify for the funds the Governor wants earmarked for pay raises.

During the School Board member comment period, trustee Glenn Edwards praised Thornton for his support of CTE (career and technical education) programming. “This is the first time in ten years we have given serious consideration to programs for those students who can’t or don’t want to attend a four year school,” said Edwards. “I’m a builder, and I work with my hands, and I support these types of programs.”

On March 7 at 6 p.m., the Board will hold a public meeting to discuss the budget. This will be followed by a work session, also open, at 7 p.m.

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It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you don't have to do everything at once. Anybody who's anybody can see what a sinkhole MCPS has become. What a tragedy for the students.

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