Program creates budget concerns for NCCS

Potential cuts in Newton-Conover City Schools is no longer a reality for teachers within the school system, but an after-school program has board members requesting a close watch on its expenses.
With the proposed 2010-11 budget being $29.4 million, Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond told education board members during a work session Monday at the NCCS Central Office, the school system is in good shape.
"We are very healthy," Redmond said. "We are very, very frugal and manage our money very well."
The $29.4 million budget includes money from the state, local and federal governments, child nutrition department, Community Schools and the capital fund, according to NCCS Finance Director Carmen Houston and her assistant Keista Bass, who presented the education board with its local budget Monday.
At the board's June meeting, Redmond anticipated 12.5 positions to be cut in the upcoming school year because of state budget projections. No teacher positions were cut, but three teacher assistants were removed.
Two teacher assistants at South Newton Elementary School were traded in for a teacher position. The third teacher assistant position has not been filled. Also, a drama teacher took an English position at Newton-Conover High School.
On the other hand, Donna Schronce, a social studies teacher at NCHS, said she feels more teacher assistants are needed at the elementary schools. She also referencedĀ  class sizes at NCHS, where one teacher has 90 students divided into three blocks.
Redmond and Assistant Superintendent David Stegall said they are working on dividing the teacher's class sizes at the high school. Stegall also told Schronce to keep them informed if there are other areas they might be missing that are overloaded with students.
"We are thin, but our first goal is to (keep) our teachers," Redmond said.
Stegall shared with board members that two months ago, NCCS was interviewed by a consulting firm because it is one of 10 school systems its size in the state that is making progress in a tough economy.
"We are beating the odds," Stegall said.
However, despite its positive remarks, NCCS faces budget concerns with the Community Schools program. Redmond described its "biggest bubble (as) Community Schools."
Community Schools, which is a summer and after-school program for Catawba County children, anticipates an $80,000 decrease in its revenue from the 2009-10 budget year. The total revenue and expenditures for Community Schools this year is expected at $2.48 million. Last year, the program's revenue was $2.56 million.
Redmond told board members there is a decrease in enrollment because Catawba County parents have more options for after-school care and summer camps for children.
One area where Community Schools is suffering is in its costs.
Redmond said Community Schools Director Jim Sprinkle meets with Redmond on a monthly basis to give a report. Sprinkle then meets with the education board on a quarterly basis. In an effort to audit the program's costs efficiently, Redmond suggested Sprinkle give a monthly report to the board.
"We should've cut (costs) sooner," Redmond said. "Instead of buying 80-cent snacks, we should go to 40-cent snacks. The issue is we aren't staying on top of the tide fast enough. We are the little guy managing the large facilities."
Of the Community Schools projected budget, it plans to use $60,000 for snacks, $232,544 for office staff and $1 million for staff at its sites, to name a few budgeted items.
Because Community Schools is a program that will not be stopped, Redmond fears having to bail the program out if its revenue doesn't cover its costs.
"We have to be efficient in our staffing and wise in the way we purchase snacks, materials, equipment, etc.," Redmond said.
The Board of Education will vote on the 2010-11 budget at its scheduled board meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 in the conference room at NCCS Central Office. The meeting is open to the public.

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