How to Manage Budget Shortfall Without Falling Short For Aiken Students

Aiken
County Board of Education leaders are facing more than a two million dollar shortfall.
School leaders say they don't want to fall short for Aiken's students and there
are two ways to bridge that gap:  Raise
money or cut costs.

Parents
on a local playground say they know where they don't want cuts – where they
affect their kids.

Phaedra
Holtzclaw says she would do anything to help her son Brandon climb to the top-
and she's not okay with budget cuts holding him back:

“Why are
you going to take away from our future when that's not necessary,” she asks.  “That's what's going to make this world when
we're gone. Why are you going to take away from that?  I don't want to take away from that.”

School
leaders say they don't want to take away from that either, but that they are
facing some tough choices.

“We've
got a whole list of wants, right now we're having to deal with just how do we
keep what we've already got,” says school board member Tad Barber.

Holtzclaw
knows what she says they have to keep – early education and reading
intervention.

“There's
already enough of our graduates now days that graduate not knowing how to read
or do basic math,” she says.  “If you cut
back, you're going to make more of that and that's unacceptable.”

Barber
says schools may have to increase millage rates for businesses, and will focus
on keeping the most cost effective successful programs; but it's hard when
you're constantly changing your game plan.

“Just as
we think we know where the goal line is, we look and it's moved a little
further down the field,” he says.

That's
because while schools must have their budget done in June, the state
legislature may not let them know how much money they have until school starts
again.  Holtzclaw says that's not playing
fairly.

“If I
have to live on a strict budget, they do too,” she says. “I can't wait until
the last minute to make a budget for my household.”

And when
it comes to education, she says it's dangerous not to pay by those rules:

“Then you
are scrounging around and you have to make drastic cuts that are unnecessary
because you don't know what to do,” she says.

The board
of education will host a meeting June 4th for public input.  The budget is due June 25th.

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