Before the finance director went through the proposed 2011-12 budget overview, he cautioned the Forsyth County Board of Education that the numbers weren’t pretty.
“This has been probably one of the most challenging budget years I’ve ever been associated with,” said Dan Jones, who has been with the school system since 1988.
“We’ve heard other systems and people talking about the funding [cuts] and it finally hit home with us this year in the fact that we continue to grow in students, but our revenue sources continue to shrink.”
The school board got its first look at the budget during Thursday’s work session.
To balance the proposed $263.3 million budget, Jones said the district would need to use the remainder of a $6.5 million grant from a federal education jobs fund program.
It likely will also need to carry over about $2.2 million from the fund balance, leaving the system’s reserves with about $40 million.
The system’s $263.3 million in proposed expenditures is an increase of nearly $3 million over last year’s budget.
However, that figure includes about $1.5 million more for health care benefits, as well as money for 77 new teachers.
Jones said while salaries and benefits rose, operation costs declined by nearly 10 percent from last year, though that area accounts only for about 10 percent of the budget.
While the system has more expenditures, revenue continues to drop, including income from property tax, which is projected to fall by nearly 5 percent.
“[That] generates about $6.5 million fewer dollars this year than it did last year, so we’re having to deal with that,” Jones said.
Among other noticeable changes, the budget includes a 22 percent increase in transportation fuel costs, while the cost of food is projected to rise about $1 million.
To offset rising food costs, staff has proposed raising the price of breakfast and lunch between 10 and 25 cents, depending on school level and meal.
Board members appeared to reluctantly accept the situation, but noted they did not want to squeeze resources so much that the quality of education is sacrificed.
Superintendent Buster Evans said the proposed budget would not do so.
“You have a budget that does not put you in a situation that bottles you into a corner,” he said. “It truly makes us as efficient as I think that we can possibly be in light of the number of days that we’re having school and that we’re supporting operations.
"It clearly stretches us and causes us to do even more with less.”