$142 million schools budget approved

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

The School Board voted 6-1 Thursday to approve a $142 million budget for the coming school year.

The budget includes funding to keep all the schools open and to give employees a 1-percent raise. The document now will go to City Council for consideration as part of its budget process.

“I am pleased to see that Florence Bowser and Mount Zion are put back in the budget,” said board member Thelma Hinton.

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The budget proposal initially recommended closing those two elementary schools to save money. However, because state funding was not decreased as much as anticipated, the division was able to put the schools back in the budget and offer the raise.

The tweaks required additional cuts in things like technology equipment purchases and reduced funding for the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology and the SECEP program.

Keeping the two elementary schools in the budget will require about $995,000. The 1-percent raise for employees will cost more than $865,000.

“They haven’t had a salary increase for three years,” said Mike Brinkley, executive director of finance.

The budget still requires eliminating four unfilled positions and one position that is currently staffed.

It also depends on a funding increase from the city — $1.4 million more than last year’s request, which was fully funded. City officials have been vague about whether the schools will get the full amount requested.

School Board Chairman Mike Debranski was the lone vote against the proposal. He seemed to favor saving money by closing the schools.

“We should take advantage of consolidating resources, i.e. schools, if necessary,” he said near the end of the meeting.

Superintendent Deran Whitney said response from employees about the possible raise had been positive, but “I think people realize that it’s clear it’s not a done deal,” he said.

The City Council will see the city’s full budget proposal April 6. That’s when the School Board will know whether their request is proposed for full funding.

Debranski requested that a list of the school division’s recent cost-cutting measures be sent to City Council along with the budget proposal.

“I think it’s important that our finances are out in the open and we’re accountable,” Debranski said.