Board of Education adopts final budget for 2011-2012
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted July 26 to approve a final budget for the 2011-2012 year. State and local funding that materialized at levels higher than expected allowed Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to restore about 1,600 classroom positions and preserve a pre-kindergarten program for at-risk children. 

The adopted operating budget was $1.17 billion, an increase of 1.7 percent over the 2010-2011 operating budget. It includes about $48 million in reductions and redirections, although the increased county and state funding allowed the district to restore some of the cuts that would have affected students most. 

“What this budget shows is that we have continued to make cuts on the operations side while using the unanticipated state and local funding we received to begin rebuilding the classroom side,” said Board Chairperson Eric C. Davis. “But we are still spending significantly less per student than we did even four years ago because of the large cuts we have made since 2007-2008, coupled with our continued growth in enrollment.”

The budget presentation prepared by staff showed that CMS began planning a year ago for a difficult budget year. Based on information received from the state in the fall, it appeared that the district would have to cut between five and 15 percent in state funding to accommodate funding reductions. The district also had to fund the costs of growth, sustaining operations and an expected decline in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. So the CMS proposed operating budget included more than $100 million in cuts.

The cuts were arranged in four tiers, with the cuts the district least wanted to make – “the unacceptable tier,” in the words of one Board member – in Tier 4. The district and the county agreed that any additional county money would be used to fund the Tier 4 cuts from the bottom up, which CMS has done.

The adopted operating budget also reflects state cuts that came in at $27 million less than expected, which along with increased county funding, helped CMS restore cuts in Tier 4. That money, with other increased funding from the state, also allowed the district to restore some school-level positions that had been cut from the 2010-2011 budget.

“For the past three years, we have not been able to shield our classrooms from the budget cuts, although we worked to minimize the impact wherever we could,” said Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh. “Now we have an opportunity to replace some of the cuts that were most damaging, such as teachers, teacher assistants and other school-based staff.”

Hattabaugh also noted that the district is spending less per pupil in 2011-2012 than it did four years ago.

“Next year, we estimate spending $8,463 per student – compared to $8,868 in 2007-2008,” he said. District figures also show that in the decade since  the 2001-2002 school year, CMS enrollment has increased by 30 percent, while per-pupil spending increased by 18 percent.

To see the budget presentation, click here.