School district budget cuts seem reasonable

The $2.7 million the Rock Hill school district proposes to cut to balance its operating budget is only a small percentage of the overall budget, but it still is a sizable amount. However, the planned cuts outlined by the administration Monday appear both reasonable and relatively painless.

The administration has proposed an operating budget of $141 million for the upcoming school year. But to balance the budget, the district would have to cut $2.7 million in existing expenses.

The budget process still is in its early stages, and the details could change significantly before the final budget is approved. But this early blueprint would achieve a balanced budget without any layoffs and without significant elimination of programs.

The cuts would include a reduction in the district work force. But that would be achieved by attrition and eliminating some positions that currently are vacant.

District Superintendent Kelly Pew said that no existing teachers would be fired. But not filling some vacant positions would save about $653,000, according to estimates in the proposed budget.

Three alternative education programs – The Phoenix Academy, Rebound and the Renaissance Academy – would be consolidated, and the after-school Challenger program would be restructured. The weekly cost of attending Challenger also would rise by $5.

School board members questioned some parts of the proposal, such as the elimination of a horticulture program at the Applied Technology Center. But district officials said students have shown little interest in the class.

Pew said that cutting nine teaching positions as proposed in the plan might affect student-teacher ratios. The number of students in some classes could rise by one.

We share the concern that larger class sizes could become a routine path to saving money. That would be counterproductive.

As board member Ann Reid noted, the district previously has made a commitment to lowering teacher-student ratios in kindergarten through third grade, and this plan could raise them. But we trust that the goal remains to sustain reasonable ratios, and an increase of one student would not be too disruptive to the classroom experience.

No vote was taken Monday but a majority of board members indicated they support the proposed budget. Members will have to review the details of the proposal, but it appears that Pew and district officials have fashioned a solid plan to meet the district’s needs while keeping costs under control.

In summary

School board still must review proposed budget, but district appears to have done a good job of containing costs.