Schools face budget cuts

Published 10:47 am Saturday, December 19, 2009

FRANKLIN—On the eve of Gov. Tim Kaine’s presentation of his proposed biennial budget, Franklin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle told the city School Board painful cuts are likely coming.

“What I keep hearing is that we’re headed to something that we’ve never seen before,” Belle told the board Thursday night.

Kaine presented his proposed 2010-12 biennial budget to the General Assembly’s Joint Money Committee Friday morning. It contains billions of dollars in cuts across the board. K-12 education, which Kaine said has largely been spared cuts in the past, faces “a series of strategic, targeted cuts.”

“The budget reduces funding for administrative and support personnel in schools and central offices by applying a funding ratio for these positions,” Kaine said. “Nothing in our schools is as important as teachers, and a ratio for support staff is not only consistent with a ratio for teachers and instructional staff that already exists—it will help protect our core priority, the classroom.”

Belle said that school staff members will work over the Christmas break to go over the governor’s budget and the division’s three principals will be required to turn in budgets for their schools in early January.

“We know we’re going to be faced with some hard cuts and we want to make the best cuts possible and provide the best instructional program that we can for children.”

The School Board’s budget for the current fiscal year cut spending 7.3 percent and eliminated more than 20 jobs. The school division will likely be forced to make similar cuts in the fiscal 2011 budget.

“It’s unfortunate … but we’re looking at people and programs,” Belle said. “We all need to work very closely so we can make sound decisions.”

“These are the good days,” Belle said. “The tough days are ahead. We have to deal with it and make the best decisions for the children.”

Kaine’s budget also proposes delaying the scheduled change in the composite index of the local ability to pay for one year—until fiscal year 2012. Kaine said that the change would prevent 97 school divisions, including Franklin, from increasing the share of education costs paid by their local governments.

However, Franklin is preparing to grapple with the loss of tax revenue and the possibility of falling real estate values connected to IP’s closure, so keeping the local government contribution to the school system the same would still likely be painful.

“Everyone everywhere is feeling the pinch of the recession,” said School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro. “Everybody’s in that same boat. State revenues are running short, so I think we’re all going to have to feel that pinch together.”