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The Daily Tar Heel

County school districts ask Board of Commissioners to maintain funding levels for schools

As legislators discuss how tightly to draw state and federal purse strings, the Orange County Board of Commissioners awaits the magnitude of funding cuts the county’s two school systems will face.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools presented their recommended budgets to the commissioners on April 26. Both entities took into account cuts projected at the state and federal levels but asked the board to maintain its previous levels of funding.

County Manager Frank Clifton will present a county budget proposal to commissioners Tuesday. After a series of work sessions and public hearings, the board will approve an operating budget in June that will include fund allocations to schools.

“We’re trying to make sure we provide schools with an adequate source of funding that we have historically produced,” commissioner Earl McKee said.

Orange County Schools

Orange County Schools projects a $6.4 million shortfall for the 2011-12 school year, including more than $3.5 million in state funding reductions.

With budget work sessions and public hearings on the horizon, Donna Coffey, Orange County Board of Education vice chairwoman, said the system will focus on ensuring that direct services to students are not harmed.

“We’re trying to preserve as many of the classroom positions as we can,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s my number one priority.”

To offset current and projected cuts, the district plans to redirect money from its fund balance, reduce its operating budget by about $1.2 million and redirect lottery proceeds.

Operating budget reductions include about $340,000 in cuts to curriculum and instruction, as well as cuts to transportation and maintenance.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro

An estimated loss of about $7.8 million in state funding faces Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in the coming school year.

“We can try to read through these state budget cuts calmly, but the reality is these are huge, unprecedented numbers that threaten the quality of education in the state and in this county,” system Superintendent Neil Pedersen said at the budget presentation.

The system plans to appropriate $2.1 million from its fund balance and cut more than $2 million in expenses to help balance its budget.

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