Missy Campbell, who heads up the district’s finance department, made the announcement when she requested approval of changes made to the current budget. Those changes were made to reflect the last round of cuts that added up to $1.7 million, or 4 percent.
The school district weathered those cuts with no impact to the classrooms and little impact on the general fund budget, Campbell said.
And they were able to set aside an additional $257,098 in a special district reserve account.
But she predicted that the district would see another cut of $600,000 to $700,000 that would swallow up those savings.
“We would go to the reserve fund first,” Campbell said.
She said that after the next cut, the reserve fund, which currently totals $536,829, will likely be wiped out.
The budget changes approved by the school board in a 6-1 vote, reflects savings primarily because the district based its budget on a base-student cost lower than the state recommendation.
Other savings came because an expected employer health insurance increase that was expected did not happen and because less money was needed for the Hampton fund, Campbell said.
There were some spending increases too, including miscellaneous salary and benefit adjustments, an allocation and supplement for the Liberty High School Girls Golf team, an increase in unemployment compensation and an increase $121,000 for homebound instruction.
As part of Monday night’s budget changes, tentative revenue and expenditures from federal stimulus funds of $4.6 million were also removed from the general fund and placed into a separate fund.
Campbell said that money is funding 100 jobs within the school district.
For the next school year, she anticipates the school district will get about $1 million less from that source, and the following year, that funding source will no longer be available.
She said this fact is “ever present in our minds” and that “pragmatic and personnel decisions will have to be made.”
But Campbell said that it’s hard to predict the financial climate the school district will face when that time comes.
“Education funds from the state could get a boost,” she said.
Alex Saitta, the Pickens board representative who cast the only dissenting vote for the budget changes, suggested to Campbell that the school district should prepare for the worst.
“If it is not renewed or the economy doesn’t come roaring back, the district is looking at a deficit next year and a major deficit the year after,” he said.
“When I asked the district leadership what steps they are taking now to avoid that, they talked a lot but didn’t mention anything they are doing now,” Saitta added. “Looking at the budget update the board voted on, I saw they are still finding ways to spend more money.”
Campbell acknowledged that the stimulus money “solved a budget hole this year.”
“But we’ve got to be prepared for next year and the next,” she said.
Campbell also said she does not have a lot of hope that growth within the county will generate additional funds.
Saitta said that sooner or later, the district leadership and the board are going to start taking steps to deal with the financial problem they are likely to face.