School programs and staff positions could be on the chopping block following the county’s rejection of a multi-million dollar spending plan if county commissioners don’t find a way to fund Washington County Schools’ needs next year, according to Director of Schools Ron Dykes.
The Washington County Commission on Monday voted 13-12 against a $9.2 million spending plan that would have used about $2.8 million to reimburse the school system for capital projects, as well as helping fund several building improvements.
The vote puts the ball back in the court of the County’s Commission’s Budget Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday in a special called meeting.
The school system is about $3.4 million out of balance for the 2013-14 school year, and Dykes said the system will have to cut programs and positions if it is forced to dip into a fund balance that’s already limited.
“Right now, we’re looking at just about a $2 million fund balance until the final figures come in,” he said.
Aside from the $1.7 million, or 3 percent, the system is required by the state to keep in its fund balance, Dykes said the system only has about $200,000 that can be used to help offset about $950,000 in reimbursements from the county.
With sales tax projected to be lower than officials had anticipated, Dykes said the system will have “no choice” when it comes to cutting programs and personnel for next year.
It’s an issue that has become an annual problem for the school system, Dykes said.
“We haven’t received any significant funding increases in the last five years. Inflation is eating away at us at 2 percent a year and if you do the math on that, you’re very easily looking at a $6 million increase annually just to maintain status quo. We receive nothing along that line as an increase to help us maintain that,” he said.
Since the school system has lost one-time funds and continued to see dwindling sales tax dollars, a number of programs have been cut that have already negatively impacted instruction, according to Dykes.
If the school system is forced to make further cuts, they would most likely come in the form of axing extracurricular programs, support staff and possibly funding for textbooks.
Some of the programs that would be affected would include athletics and any other non-curricular activities.
In terms of staffing, Dykes said instructional assistants, nurses, technology maintenance and clerical positions could be affected as well.
“Those are areas you don’t want to get into, but then again, we might be forced to,” he said.