School district faces economic uncertainties

Special to The HeraldFebruary 12, 2009 

I would like to thank the Rock Hill community for its patience and support during this difficult budget year. We are fortunate to have a legislative delegation that has fought hard and worked with us closely.

The problem

The Rock Hill school district is experiencing the most significant revenue shortfall in history. We have lost 12 percent from the original revenue totaling over $6 million. All of our efforts to reduce costs this year (listed below) will help significantly, but we probably will still be short $1 million to $2 million. The real impact will not be felt until the next budget year beginning July 1.

What we have done

• Eliminated many before- and after-school tutors.

• Cut department budgets.

• Eliminated or delayed hiring non-critical positions.

• Eliminated overtime for employees.

• Decreased substitute support.

• Reduced copying and printing of documents.

• Cancelled recruitment trips.

• Reduced staff development and travel. In many cases, employees are paying for their professional development out of their own pocket.

• Transferred funds to maximize instructional use and pursued additional grant opportunities.

• Reduced consulting services.

• Employed energy-saving actions.

• Implemented tuition for middle school summer school.

• Implemented an employee cost-savings program.

• Scheduled meetings of York County school district finance officials and superintendents to discuss options to maximize funds by working together.

We have not cut teaching positions or reduced employee salaries this year. The Rock Hill school district is the largest employer in York County, so salary cuts will have a trickling-down effect on the community. Because we do have a fund balance, we have a means for offsetting some of this deficit. I also think it is fiscally responsible to use some of the funds we have saved to stimulate our own community.

What we anticipate next year

It is difficult to predict what we should do next year because revenue predictions change frequently. Our best answer right now is to wait, watch and plan. We are running scenarios and looking at costs in every budget line item to prepare for cuts next year. We do not plan to reduce our employees' incomes this year. However, we expect several considerations will be up for discussion depending on how deep we will be required to cut next year. Undoubtedly, we will be faced with some challenging choices.

The need to wait

We would all like to "fix" our budget instead of waiting, but we need to wait for several reasons before we determine what will be cut next year. Our revenue predictions have been a moving target. Therefore, we need to wait on:

• The development of the state's budget for next year.

• Our 135-day enrollment to determine our growth rate.

• The number of employees who plan to retire or leave and in what areas.

• The possibility of receiving federal stimulus funding.

Student-centered budget

As we work through this difficult time, we must strive to develop a student-centered budget for 2009-2010. It should be aligned with our employee professional code, which states that we will put students first, nurture relationships, work together for a shared vision, grow professionally and continuously find ways to improve. The character and beliefs of any organization are demonstrated when challenged with a budget crisis. It will be incumbent for us to show our beliefs are more than just the posters up on our walls.

Lynn Moody is superintendent of Rock Hill schools.

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