But that’s not a option the the board of trustees for the school district of Pickens County feels they can afford.
The board had a work session Monday night after its regular-scheduled monthly meeting to begin working on the 2011-12 budget.
Superintendent Dr. Henry Hunt did not try to paint a false sunny picture for the trustees as they began their work.
Hunt said that if things remain the same, the district is facing the loss of $5.3 million in federal stimulus funds.
The amount of state funds allowed per student is currently set for $1,634.
With tax revenue stagnant due to the poor economy, and 88 percent of the school district funds tied up in salaries, the district will likely again be forced to make tough personnel cuts in order to balance the budget.
“Basically, a major portion of our budget is tied up in people,” Hunt said. “So it is likely we will have to look at that cost.”
At this point there are plenty of variables that he trustees cannot account for, Hunt said.
Still unknown at this point are:
• Which costs the state will pass down;
• Utlilities cost;
• Attrition of employees;
• Teacher STEP increases.
Last year the state Department of Education allowed districts to delay scheduled state-required STEP increases in teacher salaries. It is not known at this point is such an exception will be allowed again next year.
Hunt said that the school district staff has been working on the 2011-12 budget since October, when staff members met with principals to get input from them on cost-saving measures.
In November, the staff held community meetings to gain public input.
In December, district officials met with members of the Pickens County Delegation to gain insight on state budget proceedings.
Teachers have filled intent forms if they know that they plan to leave the district, but Hunt said that doesn’t necessarily include all teachers who will be making changes.
Hunt said the most likely the board of trustees will be asked to make decisions on eliminating some positions by Feb. 28.
The board may have more time to make such decisions if the state extends the April 15 deadline for the district to have all contracts in place for the coming school year.
Trustee Alex Saitta suggested that his fellow board members look at the budget from 1986, when the total was $88 million, which is where next year’s budget will likely need to be.
Saitta said he would prefer to cut salaries across the board by 2 1/2 to 5 percent, rather than eliminate positions.
Trustee Judy Edwards said the district should encourage each school’s Parent-Teacher-Organization to help pay for supplies that have been cut due to the tight budgets.
Ben Trotter said he needed to study the issue more before making any suggestions, but he doe not favor eliminating positions if at all possible.
“A teacher should not lose her job because of poor planning by somebody else,” Trotter said. “I will not vote to get rid of any teachers. I’m going to have to take this thing home an study it real well."