CHAPEL HILL-As Orange County Commissioners prepare to adopt a budget for next fiscal year, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board members are preparing for tough choices in their own budget, especially when it comes to the number of students in each classroom.
“We don’t know what our budget’s going to be, and we might have to make some difficult decisions,” said Board member Mike Kelley, speaking during Thursday’s night’s meeting. “Regrettable as it is, we might have to cut something we don’t want to have to cut.”
The Orange County budget, which is expected to be adopted next week, falls short of the district’s requests by approximately $4.6 million—and Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd Lofrese says he’s worried about how those shortcomings might affect class size.
“Parents are concerned about class size, and we echo their concerns,” he says. “It was included in our budget requests, but it represents a big dollar amount.”
Still, Board member James Barrett says having a few more students in each class might be worth saving other aspects of the district, such as the quality of faculty members.
“As tough as it is, I don’t know if the data really says going to one to 28 will make an educational difference,” he says. “My daughter was in a class of 28 in a trailer, and it was definitely uncomfortable, but I’d rather have that great teacher there than just try to get the class down to one to 26.”
Pre-kindergarten was also a hot topic among board members on Thursday evening—under the North Carolina Senate budget proposal, which was passed last month, the pre-K program would be available to 7,500 fewer students statewide during the 2013-14 school year.
Another major concern is the district’s world language program, which Kelley says could see unfavorable changes next year as a result of budget reductions.
“I think it’s very clear that our financial resources will be extremely limited this year, and we have to be more efficient in our world language program,” he says. “It’s unfortunate that it might have impacts on how world language is delivered, but I’m grateful that at least it appears through some mechanism, children will be able to continue whatever language they’ve chosen in some format.”
Before Thursday evening’s school board meeting, County Commissioners held a budget work session where Barrett was in attendance. He says while commissioners are showing some concern about education, he’s not optimistic that their final budget will suit all of the district’s needs.
“The buzzword this year is ‘balance,’” he says. “It seems to be a code word meaning yes, they recognize that we need more funding for the schools, and the way to achieve that isn’t a county-wide property tax, but more balance out of the county expenses. I don’t think that fully funds our requests, and I don’t think there’s expectation from anybody that they’ll fully fund them.”
The state House of Representatives’ proposed budget is expected to be released next week; the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board is expected to adopt its final budget sometime in July.
Click here for details on the proposed budgets from the North Carolina Senate and Orange County Commissioners.