Marshall County's school board plans to have a budget ready to send to the county commission by July 1, although the panel needs a special called meeting next week to get it done.
On Monday when the school board met, budget committee chairwoman Kristen Gold announced preliminary Basic Education Program numbers from the state show that money will bring the budget close to break even, but cautioned "none of this is final."
Gold was optimistic about the numbers, saying she remembered June BEP estimates being "fairly close to accurate."
"If it all works out, we're in pretty good shape," schools director Roy Dukes said.
He gave board members copies of the prioritized list of possible cuts he and the principals and supervisors had prepared.
"Do you have some recommendations from this prioritized list?" Gold asked.
"I have some," Dukes replied. "But we've all got to do it together. Some things on this list we really don't want to do because it would affect the children."
Board member Harvey Jones Jr. wanted additions, not cuts, for his district of Chapel Hill.
"Forrest needs an assistant principal and a guidance counselor," said Jones. "My goal is equal opportunity for all the children in the County."
Board member Craig Michael was less optimistic.
"We're using $533,000 out of fund balance to make this budget work," he said. "Realistically I don't see that being approved by the County commission. If we continue drawing down fund balance, we're just putting off hard decisions that have to be made."
Gold argued that the board's purpose is to educate children.
"I'm not sure what we have in this budget that can be cut without affecting children," she said. "I'm thinking year to year, and this is one less year we'll be slighting education."
Michael took the opposite stance, asserting, "We've got to plan ahead - look ahead - not live year to year."
He also pointed out there was nothing in the proposed budget for increases in staff insurance, where "significant changes" are anticipated.
Dukes said information on insurance might be available in the first half of July.
"It depends how much the system decides to pick up," Gold pointed out.
"We need some direction on that," said Michael, lead negotiator for the management team that meets with the Marshall County Education Association, the teachers' organization.
In other matters affecting the schools' budget, the Board unanimously agreed with the transportation committee's recommendation to abandon efforts to use the Edulog software, and instructed Dukes to find the cheapest way to get out of the contract.
Hopefully the central office will soon have a new budget director. Dukes announced that he had interviewed eight highly qualified applicants for the position recently vacated by Janet Wiles, and was waiting to hear back from the one he had selected.