Thomasville City Schools faces budget deficient

80 percent of budget funds staff
Nov. 15, 2013 @ 10:53 AM

Thomasville City Schools is running out of time and money.

An audit received by the Board of Education Tuesday night confirmed what many feared would happen if the economic situation didn't improve — TCS is nearly out of money. Leon Rives with Rives & Associates LLP said the  2013-14 budget audit shows losses in federal and state funding.

With expenditures exceeding revenues, TCS has relied on its fund balance to compensate for the loss of almost $2 million to save teacher jobs. No longer able to rely on that depleted fund balance heading into next school year, Rives said TCS has some tough decisions ahead.

TCS has a annual budget of $24 million with more than 80 percent allocated to teacher salaries.

"This is happening everywhere," Rives said. "If you have a $24 million business, you can't function with $500,000 in the bank. It doesn't work. You need cash flow. [TCS] has $1.37 million allocated to next year, but they don't have the ability to spend those funds because they're going to run out. It's a product of the economy."

School board members a year ago learned that TCS faced a fiscal cliff in the summer of 2014 if more money didn't become available. Finance Director Tammy Stromko said the school system lost an additional $200,000 from the state in discretionary cuts since then.   

"We thought this would be the year we were going to get something from the state," said Stromko. "I thought that this year, 2013-14, the state would come back and help us by giving us more money. They were supposed to take back around $612,000, they ended up taking $865,000. That's an extra $200,000 we don't have because they're going to stop the discretionary cuts."

When President Barack Obama in 2009 passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, school systems were required to spend available stimulus funds or lose them. ARRA funds are no longer available, which leaves TCS to make up the difference.

"We had to spend [ARRA] funds or otherwise you would lose it and that would be silly," Stromko said. "We were told to hire people with that. Now we have to make up for all the people we hired with that ARRA money.  Now we've got the people but we don't have the money to pay them."

TSC superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin plans to look at options to avoid laying off any teachers. 

"Hopefully we will not have to go to layoffs," said Pitre-Martin. "I think we're going to have to be very, very strategic and intentional about our instructional programming. We'll also have to look at staff and how we're currently using staff in our system. Our goal is never to lay off folks but at the end of the day we're going to have to make some very strategic decisions on how we're running our programs and how we're staffing our schools.

"We know that as our staff members are moving out of the system due to resignation or retirements and that certainly might give us the opportunity to look at our staffing differently. I think those are places we will look as opposed to having to go to layoffs."

TCS is not alone.

Terri Barnes, a certified public accountant with Rives & Associates, said budget deficits are impacting school systems across the state.

"Prior to this year, most of our school systems already have had to do cuts," Barnes said. "We've seen that at all the school systems that we audit. Only a couple have been able to do what TCS has done, which is to sustain that fund balance. We have some school systems that have no choice but to make cuts."

TCS already was using between $800,000 and $1.2 million from its fund balance to cover losses in state and federal funding in last year's budget.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.