SUMMERVILLE -- Dorchester District 2's well-regarded schools are in danger in the wake of severe budget cuts, school leaders and residents told County Council at a public hearing Monday night.
Allyson Duke, district chief financial officer, made a presentation to council's Finance Committee on the 2010-2011 schools budget. She said the district faces a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall next year.
Her presentation was followed by a public hearing, which drew a standing-room-only crowd. At the hearing, district leaders and residents voiced their concerns about the impact of budget cuts on the schools.
Superintendent Joe Pye said, "the biggest issue is class size." There will be more children, on average, in classrooms next year, which will impact students, he said.
He also said that the district has reduced the number of administrators in school buildings, which could have an impact on safety. "Safety and the quality of education are greatly suffering," Pye said.
County Council must approve the local portion of the school district's budget, which it did on second reading Monday night. About one-third of the district's operating budget comes from local sources. The rest comes from the state.
Duke told council members that she's become "the voice of gloom" because the district's financial situation is dire. The school district expects about $126 million in income next year, Duke said. That's down about $7 million from $133 million in the current school year. And the district expects to enroll about 350 more students next year, she said, leaving the district with a $12 million shortfall.
Duke pleaded with council members to at least give the district the maximum amount possible under state law, which is about $37 million. Council OK'd that amount as part of the county budget, but the final vote is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 7 in Council Chambers in St. George.
The district has faced dramatic budget cuts in the past couple of years, Duke said, and it has compensated by cutting budgets in nearly all areas, including requiring employees to take furlough days and eliminating vacant positions.
District 2 will make even more cuts next year, including not giving teachers what's known as "step increases." Those increases had been mandated by the state in previous years, Duke said. But the state gave districts the flexibility to withhold pay increases for teachers next year. District 2, like many of its counterparts across the state, is going to take the state up on its offer.
In other county business:
--Council gave final approval to place a $5 million referendum for parks and green space projects on the November ballot. At a public hearing before the meeting, several residents spoke in favor of the referendum, including a representative from the Coastal Conservation League. Nobody spoke against the referendum.
--Council approved on second reading giving Trident Technical College $4.5 million toward a new nursing building. Trident President Mary Thornley said Charleston County Council approved $18 million for the project, and she's hopeful that Berkeley County Council will approve a $7.5 million contribution.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.