Educators expected deeper budget cuts than were included in Gov. Bev Perdue’s budget proposal unveiled Monday, and may end up getting them before the budget is finalized.
The governor released her proposal Monday, which will have to be reconciled with proposals from both houses of the General Assembly.
Neither of them have yet come up with their own spending plans.
The News & Observer is reporting her plan cuts about $1 billion from the state budget, with roughly half of the cuts coming from public schools, community colleges and the university system.
It also said the $19 billion proposal keeps spending nearly the same, doesn’t raise taxes and makes up some of the shortfall by counting about $600 million in stimulus money as savings.
“We are in a cash short enterprise, and we have to make choices,” Perdue was quoted as saying in the Raleigh paper.
Richmond County Board of Education Chairman Ken Goodman said everyone’s been bracing for cuts, but the governor’s proposal doesn’t go as far as most had feared.
He also doesn’t believe Perdue’s proposal will make it through untouched, however.
“It’s something that is inevitable,” Goodman said. “You can’t spend more than you’re taking in, but I thought Perdue was kind to education, and her cuts didn’t go as far as we were prepared for them to.”
He pointed out the cuts avoided kindergarten through third grade, “probably the most critical point in a child’s development,” and in sum cut about 4 percent from K-12.
Some public education officials had expected cuts of 6 percent or more.
“There is also another interesting aspect to the cuts, in that the state will allow local school systems to make discretionary cuts,” he said. “Some school systems don’t want to make the cuts and they feel like the legislature is passing the buck a little bit because they will have to face the people they’re cutting, but the legislature feels like local school systems better know what they can afford to cut and what they can’t, so there’s two sides to that argument.”
Richmond County Schools has been preparing several contingency plans over the past several months of how to cope with cuts in state money, Goodman said.
“We’ve been looking at several options for, not if but when, this comes down the pipe,” Goodman said. “But, the process isn’t over yet, and I doubt this proposal is what we’ll see when it is over.”
Richmond Community College President Dr. Dale McInnis also felt a little bit like a bullet may have been dodged when he looked at Perdue’s proposal.
“I am gratified to see that the governor recommended full funding for enrollment growth, recognizing the role our colleges have played in job development and training,” McInnis said. “Given RCC’s recent growth of over 16 percent, this funding is critical for our college and students next year. I look forward to the continued support of the legislature as they finalize the budget.”
During Perdue’s visit to RCC to announce the Plastek Group will open a new division in Richmond County, she touted the role North Carolina’s Community College System has to play in getting workers retrained and back on the job.
During the visit, she also toured several classrooms and programs at the college.
In a press release, Community College System President Dr. Scott Ralls said her lack of cuts for enrollment growth “reflects her understanding of North Carolinians’ increasing demand for job training and education ...”
“While we know that lean budget times demand difficult decisions, we also know that a proposed system-wide cut of 3.5 percent - a direct reduction of our per-student funding - will reach into our classrooms and lessen our colleges’ ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities for our students, particularly in health care and technical education,” Ralls said. “We will be working with the Governor and the leadership in the General Assembly to find an alternative solution.”
Also cut in Perdue’s budget proposal are programs such as a wilderness camp for juvenile offenders and cut out basic dental care for Medicaid patients.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.