By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Copperas Cove Independent School District trustees voted Tuesday to commit $5.6 million from the district's general fund, some of which will be used to close a budget gap next year.
On a recommendation from CCISD Superintendent Rose Cameron, the board voted unanimously to dedicate $1.6 million to help close the shortfall for the 2012-13 school year.
"The state is shorting us $4 million," said Cameron, "But we still have schools to run."
Last year, the board approved a similar recommendation, and used $1.7 million from the general fund to combat a $4.9 million cut.
The vote Tuesday came shortly after the board approved CCISD's 2011 fiscal year audit, which put the balance of the district's general fund at just over $40.7 million.
"(CCISD) is in a strong financial position to make the tough decisions moving forward," said Michael Firth, the district's independent auditor.
The board also voted to set aside $3 million from the general fund for future construction and land purchase - in anticipation of population growth next year - and $1 million for the replacement of buses, heating and air conditioning and other technology.
The money will remain in the general fund, but will be dedicated to a specific purpose, said Robert Edmonson, CCISD's director of business services.
"It shows the state we have plans for the money; it's not just sitting around," he said.
Job cuts still possible
Using the funds to put a dent in the budget shortfall is just one part of a draft plan proposed by Cameron in November, which also includes possible cuts to school campus budgets and the elimination of 57 staff positions. None of the proposed cuts has been approved by trustees.
"We are devastated by these cuts," said Kim Shaw, a school nurse who spoke against cuts to school nurses and nurse's aides in the proposed plan. "Without highly qualified health care professionals, who will take care of our students?"
Jackie Lamont, a 42-year resident of Copperas Cove, said the board was not to blame for the potential cuts.
"A lot of people blame (the board) for taking the money away from us, (but) it's the Legislature," said Lamont. "You should be congratulated for what you have done."
At a budget workshop Monday, Cameron said the board could approve the use of $4 million from the general fund to completely close the 2012-13 budget gap and avoid any of the proposed cuts, but advised against taking such action.
"You can't continue to hit that fund balance every year, you need to prepare for the future," said Cameron. "Eventually some superintendent, or some future board will have to deal with it."
At Tuesday's meeting, Cameron said the money could be uncommitted by another vote from the current board, or any future board, if necessary.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.