Independent Tribune – Intimidators get hot at right timeNews Commissioners OK budget cuts despite school concerns

Commissioners OK budget cuts despite school concerns


By Karen Cimino Wilson
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CONCORD — Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Barry Shepherd cautioned commissioners that he would have to cut 90 teaching positions to make a 2.9 percent budget cut eight months into the school year.

Commissioners heard Shepherd and Kannapolis City School officials’ objections, but then voted unanimously to trim their budgets by 2.9 percent and review the cuts as the year progresses.

The 2.9 percent cut will mean a $1.65 million reduction in Cabarrus County Schools’ $44 million budget. It would be about a $199,000 reduction in Kannapolis City Schools’ $6.1 million budget.

It’s still unclear whether Cabarrus County Schools will cut positions or find other areas in the budget to trim, but Shepherd made the statement to show what 2.9 percent would equal this far into the school year.

Earlier this year, Cabarrus County manager John Day recommended an across-the-board 2.9 percent reduction in the county’s $209 million budget for fiscal year 2009. The county is facing a $6.1 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and anticipates a $12.5 million shortfall for fiscal year 2010.

Day had recommended a flat reduction rate for all county budgets and appropriations, because he said it does not require approval from the local school boards.

Monday’s meeting was mostly a chance for school officials to explain the budget implications.

“If there is a way we can return some of the money that has not been spent in our construction project, we’d rather do that,” Shepherd said. “Or please pass this cut onto next year. We’re not in the position that you or others might be. We cannot dip into our fund balance. We will have to make some cuts.”

Kannapolis school officials said they’re concerned about the cuts, but will work to do more with less.

“The timing for us is what’s so difficult to accept, because we’re already eight months into the fiscal year,” said Kannapolis school board chairperson Danita Rickard.

The county is facing a shortfall largely because of declining revenue from building permits and inspections, register of deeds fees, property taxes and sales tax. Growth has slowed in the housing market. Unemployment has reached 8.5 percent in Cabarrus County.

Folks who still have their jobs are spending less, which is lowering the amount of sales tax local communities are collecting. Property taxes aren’t being paid on time or sometimes at all as foreclosures become more prevalent.

Cabarrus is fairing better than some neighboring counties, because commissioners have paid about 16 percent in cash for its construction projects. But the reductions to the school budgets will be felt, officials said.

• Contact reporter Karen Cimino Wilson: 704-789-9141.

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