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The Daily Tar Heel

School Board Discusses Cuts

With a budget crisis still festering on both the state and municipal levels, school board members faced the task of determining areas and programs from which to reduce funds. The figure for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' budget has yet to be finalized.

Earlier this year, Gov. Mike Easley announced that the state is facing a $900 million shortfall. To help meet the shortfall, Easley withheld about $200 million from municipalities statewide, which could in turn affect local school boards.

"Because the state situation keeps on worsening, we are anticipating additional cutbacks from the state of about $850,000," Superintendent Neil Pedersen told the board at a meeting Monday at Seawell Elementary School.

Pedersen announced that the school system expects to make cuts in its Instructional Services and Support Services divisions.

"With all our reductions, we are looking for areas that will have the least impact on instruction," he said.

Few increases to the system's budget were suggested at Monday's meeting, and those brought up were kept to a minimum. Pedersen said two more teacher positions would be funded, one at each of the high schools. "In this situation, I discourage adding things to the budget that won't be necessary next year," he said.

But Pedersen said there were some items that the town basically forced the school board to put on its budget, including the cost of crossing guards at schools. That cost, which was once covered under the town's budget, likely will consume a $10,000 chunk of the school's budget next year.

Board members will continue to discuss the budget at their next meeting, which will be held April 25.

As a supplement to the presentation, Pedersen handed school board members a letter, which cited the importance of shifting funding to maintain initiatives like the Minority Student Achievement plan.

Pedersen's letter states that the budget already contains about $480,000 for implementing the recommendations detailed in the budget proposal as well as for supporting past initiatives.

In addition to the budgetary discussion, board members reviewed a temporary construction easement proposal that would allow Chapel Hill to put construction equipment on the property of Grey Culbreth Middle School as the town expands Culbreth Road.

The item was approved with a unanimous vote on the consent agenda.

The board also discussed the future of Elementary School No. 9, which is now being built as part of the new Meadowmont mixed-use development in Chapel Hill. Officials are still contemplating what type of educational program the elementary school will offer -- public or magnet.

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