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Local News

School districts in the region feel budget pinch

http://66.225.205.104/SO20090204.mp3

Districts are looking at scenarios based on the state ordered three percent to seven percent cut. Several of the surrounding districts are currently looking at a five percent scenario. Iredell-Statesville Schools told all departments to cut proposed spending by five percent. Superintendent Terry Holliday has ordered a hiring freeze. "We're looking at any of those positions that are not classroom or bus driver or that provide day to day services to children. We're looking at every single one of them. If we can not fill those positions that's probably the way we're gonna handle this so we don't have to lay anybody off," says Holliday. At Catawba County Schools there's a freeze on non-essential hiring this year and next year there won't be any hiring at all. The same can be said for Gaston County Schools, which is also trying the five percent scenario. A spokeswoman there says before this school year started the district froze positions. And this combined with cutting upcoming vacancies would avoid layoffs. Ronnye Boone with Cabarrus County Schools says her district is considering three, five and seven percent cuts. The district hopes to avoid layoffs by first eliminating non-essential travel, overtime and other spending. It has given the state money back twice to make up for lower than expected enrollment and to meet a mandated return. Boone says employees and parents are taking it all in stride. "I think people tend to have a clearer picture of the magnitude of the situation, knowing that we're also trying to make sure we're protecting people and protecting jobs, and ensuring the integrity of the learning environment. Then it's a little bit easier pill to swallow," she says. At Union County Public Schools, a spokeswoman says the district is dealing with an ever-changing current budget. Luan Ingram says the budget office has had to adjust several times after giving money back to the state due to lowered enrollment and a mandatory give-back. She says the district has just started reviewing next year's spending plan. Ingram calls this the "strangest budget year" she has seen in her many years with the district. Sixty to 70 percent of all school district budgets come from the state, another 25 percent or so comes from local government and the rest is federal.