Sequestration causes budget uncertainty for TCS

TCS may have to cut budget 8.5 percent
Apr. 15, 2013 @ 05:12 PM

Thomasville City Schools Board of Education received a grey budget forecast for the upcoming year that featured a lot of red.
TCS Finance Director Tammy Stromko said uncertainty regarding the federal sequestration is making it difficult to project how much money the school system will lose from the 2013-14 budget amidst nationwide cuts. At Tuesday’s monthly meeting, Stromko told board of education members that she optimistically anticipates a 8.5 percent reduction in federal funding as a result of the sequestration. The cuts, however, could be as much as 10 percent, a scenario that would put TCS in a precarious position heading into next school year.
“I’m hoping those assumptions are wrong,” Stromko said. “Right now, we just don’t know. We‘re not sure what we‘re going to end up with next year.”
Stromko estimates that the state discretionary cut will be $615,754 this year. She is asking for a 4- percent or $104,330 increase from the county. If nothing else changes in Stromko’s projections for the new budget, she said $1,464,894 from TCS’ fund balance will be needed to keep the school system operating status quo.
“That’s an incredible amount of money for a school system our size to move into a budget to keep it the same as last year,” said Stromko. “But, it’s the only way to keep everything the same. I’m hoping [the cuts] come in a lot less and there’s things we can do about it.”
TCS Superintendent Keith Tobin said using that much money will be a big blow to the school system and deplete a vital source of funds needed to save jobs. TCS has been building up its fund balance over the past few years for such a scenario but the strategy relied on the economy eventually improving.  If more money doesn’t start finding its way to the Chair City soon, TCS could face some difficult decisions.
“I don’t want to panic anybody right now,” Tobin said. “If we have that kind of deficit next year there’s a possibility that we may have to, through attrition and retirement, eliminate a few positions. That’s my goal and that way we keep everybody working.”
TCS’ new budget is predicated off a worst case scenario in where state and federal funding are significantly less next school year. In 2012-13, TCS had an operating budget of $24,212,216. An 8.5 percent cut from the sequestration would result in a $184,000 hit, in addition to the loss of stimulus dollars and a new state unemployment tax the system now must pay. Stromko estimates TCS will lose $586,963 in federal funding.
“Normally, you have a feeling, but I haven’t got a clue,” said Stromko of the new budget. “We thought we would know in March [about the sequestration], but when does anyone know what the federal government is going to do. I’m hoping for a 8.5 percent cut.”
TCS has 193 classroom teachers and 53 teacher assistants. Stromko said TCS’ fund balance could sustain the school system until the 2014-15 budget calendar.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or