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School Board trims budget

WINTON – This one was much better.

The Hertford County Board of Education was much more receptive to the school administration’s second attempt at a budget.

Last week the board rejected a 2007-2008 budget that would have asked for a $1.5 million increase in local funding. They set a special meeting for Wednesday in which they would discuss, among other items, a new budget proposal.

That proposal was the first item on the board’s agenda and board members reacted positively to the new budget, which will now seek $486,000 in new current expense funding.

According to the budget presented by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael G. Basham and Finance Director Cindy Martin, there would be reductions in spending allocations and personnel.

The school district would eliminate 8.5 classroom teachers that are paid by local money and not replace either the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction nor the Public Information Officer. The budget also eliminated a part-time Initially Licensed Teacher Coordinator, a position which has been vacant but was slated to be filled in the new budget.

The proposed budget also reduced travel expense by $16,000, removed a policy manual update to the tune of $10,000 and lowered expected utility expenses by almost $15,000.

In addition, several contracted services were moved to the state budget for funding.

“I think you’ve done a heck of a job,” board member Ronald G. Baker said.

Fellow board member Dennis M. Deloatch said he agreed with Baker and said he had scrutinized the budget closely and had a list of questions.

“I still have a few questions, but you’ve done a good job,” he said.

Deloatch asked if Dr. Basham would be asking to keep Interim Assistant Superintendent Ralph Evans on a part-time basis since the position was not to be filled. Basham said it was.

Board Chairman John D. Horton asked if the eliminated teaching positions had been identified and was told they had.

According to Dr. Basham, there will be 2.5 positions eliminated at Ahoskie Elementary School, three at Hertford County Middle School and five at Riverview Elementary School. In addition, three Reading Recovery teachers at Bearfield Primary School will be moved into the classroom.

“If we don’t get it all, we’ll have to look at assistant principal and teacher assistant positions which are paid locally,” Baker said.

“In theory, that is some place you could look,” board member David L. Shields said. “We don’t have to do that if we are funded this budget.

“I think it is reasonable,” he continued. “It cuts to the bear bones. If we cut anything else, we cut personnel.”

Board member J. Wendell Hall didn’t entirely agree with that assessment.

“We’ve already cut personnel,” he said. “If I’m hearing correctly, we are losing the Reading Recovery program.”

Hall said he wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of leaving all the teacher assistant positions and losing programs like Reading Recovery.

Dr. Basham said Bearfield already had a Reading First program and that was the premier reading program.

“If you have to make a choice, we believe it is better to let Reading Recovery go because Reading First should meet our needs,” he added.

The board then had a discussion about teachers and making sure the schools attempted to live within their state allotment.

As they focused on the adoption, the chairman said he thought the budget may be funded.

“This may pass,” Horton said. “It is much better than where we were.”

Baker made a motion to approve the bottom line figures, but not the line items of the budget with Shields offering a second. It passed without objection.

Afterwards, Horton said he wasn’t entirely sure about the personnel that were being eliminated.

“I still think this board, before anything goes out, needs to look at this again,” Horton said. “There is a lot of expertise on this board. I want to use it and I want the superintendent to use it. There are two former superintendents sitting on this board.”

He added,

“My concern lies in anything we take away from the elementary schools. I would rather take from the existing high school and Central Office. If it comes back, we need to focus on Central Office.”