State approves Bertie schools’ deficit plan

Published 12:17 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WINDSOR – According to Dr. Steven Hill, School Superintendent, Bertie County Schools (BCS) was notified by phone on Thursday, June 1 that the North Carolina State Board of Education had approved the Budget Deficit Plan for the district.

After “shaking out” the cuts, retirements and reduction in force (RIF) taking place for the current year, BCS made some sacrifices, but Hill said the school district is optimistic as it moves into its next phase of reorganization and restructure.

“When we make cuts, there are things kids don’t have,” the superintendent said. “We will do the best we can to continue to provide students with what they need.”

Hill added the district will do everything to make sure it maintains its programs and maintains its consistency.

“At this time we are not in a position where we will have to cut any further programs or further staff to address the upcoming school year deficit,” Hill said. “However, if the cuts continue into the next fiscal year, it is something we will be forced to deal with. The challenge moving forward is anticipating what the legislature will do to address the budget problems affecting school districts throughout the state.”

In the Superintendent’s April Personnel Report, seven positions in the school district were reduced due to retirement, two more with resignations, and 21 through reduction-in-force.  The May Report showed two by RIF, three by retirement, and one resignation. Some resignations were procedure that led to re-assignment.

“We had to cut 28 positions,” said BCS Human Resource Officer Ella Fields-Bunch.

“We had a RIF Fair and brought in the Employment Security Commission and some other organizations to try to help those folks find jobs before the end of the school year. 

This was the plan submitted to the (Bertie County) school board by the superintendent to address the budget shortfall.  The losses ranged from custodians to teachers.”

Lisa Rabon, BCS School Finance Officer, stated there will be a further reduction in force in the future but no more RIF’s for the 2016-17 school terms.  Rabon also stated that things will be tight over the next couple of years and decisions made will be tough.

“The district will continue to make strategic choices and follow this year’s trend that significantly cut back on operational expenditures including staff, to address the current year’s budget shortfall,” Rabon said.

Hill stated the school district and Bertie County Commissioners are working together as a team and the district is very encouraged about the future.

There was an accompanying email from BCS Finance Officer Lisa Rabon saying the funds would be used to reduce local contract service expenditures to assist with the general fund deficit for the current year.

Back in April, Hill appeared before the Commissioners detailing the Bertie School Board’s plans to correct problems with its current financial situation.  This included a staff reduction plan that will eliminate 28.5 positions by the end of the school term. This includes administration positions, classified employees and classroom teachers.

The school district has also presented its annual proposed budget to the Bertie Commissioners for their consideration at the May 15 monthly meeting that was held at the Blue Jay Fire Department.

In that presentation Hill summarized the school district’s proposed budget request for 2017-18, with a request for local funds of $3,073,000 (presumably $3,003,000 current expense and $70,000 court fines and forfeitures) and a Capital Outlay of $375,000.

Earlier, in May, the Bertie County Board of Education sent an emergency request to County Manager Scott Sauer requesting the transfer of $100,000 from the Capital Reserve to the General Fund to help with operational expenses. Following mandated authorization from the Commissioners, the school board’s request was granted.