BOE tables action on budget issues

Published 5:53 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Citing the need for more information, the Butler County Board of Education voted to table a pair of budget-related items at Wednesday’s special called meeting.

According to Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt, the items will likely not be brought before the board again until the next scheduled regular meeting on June 16.

“We probably won’t call another special meeting, and instead will wait for the next regular meeting,” Douthitt said. “It’s not that significant that we would need to call another special meeting.”

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At Wednesday’s meeting, the board elected not to approve a one-month operating balance plan, which it is required to submit to the State Department of Education. By law, the school district must have a one-month operating balance in its reserve. The school district ended the 2010 fiscal year with $1,126,854 in the General Fund, $609,521 less than the required one-month operating balance.

The plan that was submitted Wednesday called for a $166,627.37 reduction in CNP Pass Thru, a savings of $161,961.77 by moving three elementary school teachers from foundation to Title I carry over, a savings of $176,253.70 by moving two secondary teachers from foundation to American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Title I and a savings of $176,253.70 by eliminating two Central Office staff positions.

The total savings was $616,362.84.

“We have to submit a plan to the state showing that we are, in good faith, trying to comply with the one-month operating balance that we are required to maintain in our reserve,” Butler County Board of Education president Linda Hamilton said. “They know that if something happens with the economy that we didn’t foresee, we might not be able to maintain this balance.”

The sticking point for approving the plan was the lack of specific information regarding the reduction of Central Office personnel.

“I have a problem giving approval to an amount with specificity,” board member Joe Lisenby said. “For me as a board member to approve this, I need to know which positions we are talking about. … I have a problem approving this without us being specific. Approving something when we just put a figure in doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Board member Mickey Jones also had questions about the reduction of the Central Office staff.

“In the south part of the county $176,000 is big,” he said. “I’d like to know which positions we are talking about.”

When asked by Lisenby and Jones which two positions would be eliminated, Douthitt declined to name the specific positions.

“We know that we need to do some streamlining, so we intend to do that,” he said. “Just because this is included in the plan doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It just means that it’s one of the things we could do if necessary. … The specifics will come as we work through the next month. We just needed a general plan for the state so it would know that we are working toward having a one-month operating balance in our reserve.”

The board also tabled a motion to enact a reduction in force, which would allow the superintendent to eliminate certain positions based on an established criterion if necessary in order to meet budget requirements.

“Again, I think we need more specifics before we can act on this,” Lisenby said.

According to Douthitt, enacting the reduction in force policy would not necessarily mean that positions would be eliminated.

“This is something we need to do to protect ourselves if we are put in a position where salaries possibly need to be cut,” Douthitt said. “I think we need to have a good understanding of the direction we need to take in case we have unforeseen circumstances in the next month or two that would require a reduction in force.”

Douthitt said he is unsure of the number of employees that would be affected if the reduction of force were enacted.

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “We don’t have exact numbers. We just wanted to enact this to have a protection mechanism if we need it.”