The 2013-14 budget proposed by Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric J. Becoats closes a $15.2 million shortfall.
The nearly $408 million spending plan represents a cut of nearly 4 percent from the $424 million budget for the current fiscal year.
The budget proposal would preserve 80 teacher assistant positions whose state funding would be eliminated in Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget.
The shortfall comes from a combination of state and federal budget reductions and increases in enrollment. The school system projects 37,550 students in 2013-14, including charter-school students.
“Our schools and students are making strong progress,” Becoats said, “but state and federal funding constraints are continuing to impact our ability to provide services.”
To make up the shortfall between funding and expenses, the school system is reducing its Central Services budget by $1.1 million from the 2012-13 budget and applying another $4 million from a Central Services spending freeze from 2012-13.
But the proposal also takes $3.4 million from the system’s fund balance to help cover the shortfall.
And the budget recommends that the school board ask for an increase of $2.4 million in funding from the Durham County Board of Commissioners.
Becoats notes that his plan exhausts the use of the fund balance for covering such a shortfall in 2014-15. Almost $5.4 million of the current year’s budget was funded through non-recurring savings from the system’s undesignated fund balance.
“We certainly have our challenges this year,” said Heidi Carter, chairwoman of the school board.
Board member Natalie Beyer lamented that only 42 percent of the funds for the budget comes from the state despite education for the state’s children being constitutionally mandated.
“It will really be important to show the county that we’ve done everything we can to cut the fat before we go across the street to ask for funds,” Beyer said.
In presenting his budget, Becoats gave brief portraits of a number of the system’s students and the services they receive.
Becoats noted that while Durham Public Schools is the eighth largest district in North Carolina, it is in the top 5 for exceptional children, students studying English as a second language, and academically and intellectually gifted students who receive special, targeted education.
Students with limited English proficiency comprise 14.2 percent of the system’s population, but state funding is capped at 10.6 percent of enrollment. Almost 20 percent of the system’s students are eligible for academically and intellectually gifted services, but state funding is capped at 4 percent of enrollment.
Those gaps in funding are filled from local funding sources.