Normally the process of preparing, presenting, "tweeking", and approving a tentative budget for the School Board is a fairly routine, procedure following process. That was not the case this year as the Board spent the entire day on Monday trying to finalize this year's budget.
The issues, struggles, and decisions which were involved are all the result of an accumulation of problems created by a prolonged, three year, drought in State Education Funding Grants for several critical needs. In essence, the State is solving some of its budget balancing problems by forcing local communities to carry more of the financial burden.
We have been fortunate here in Jackson County due to the fact that when the State funding for education was drastically cut three years ago our county had a large, accumulated reserve of over $20 million dollars, and was ranked #1 in the state for financial position. When things changed in 2010 the state discontinued funding for capital outlays in local schools. Capital outlays are funds spent on maintenance, repairs, construction, and equipment (such as school buses). Since those cuts were made, the Jackson County School Board has bought almost no school buses, and greatly curtailed all projects, and has deferred much needed maintenance work. The Board's plan when this situation was thrust upon them by the State was to utilize the reserves to maintain operations at a nearly normal level, hoping that revenues began to flow again before reserves were depleted down to a normal level. During the past three years the reserve levels have been reduced by approximately $8.3 million dollars due to revenue shortfalls.
This year we reached that minimum point of available reserves from this depletion, and changes had to be made. On Monday the Board had to solve four problems; (1) Developing a balanced budget for the coming 2013-2014 school year, (2) Resolving the problem related to lack of funding needed to continue having a School Resource Officer stationed at every county school, and (3) Dealing with essential capital outlay needs, (4) Making sure staff reductions are made in proportion with declining student enrollment.
This year the national recession finally hit the Jackson County School System.