Dwindling — that word best describes the school board's fund balance as the budget dilemma continues.

At last week's meeting, the Cumberland County Board of Education learned that its fund balance is currently being used for operating expenses and payroll. If a new school budget is not approved soon, all of the funds could be exhausted before October, jeopardizing the remainder of the 2008-'09 school year, noted Business Manager Cindy Randol.

"By the end of September, our fund balance and all our funds will be depleted," she said.

Randol and Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle delivered the surprising, but somewhat expected, news during a discussion of the actual year-to-date figures for July and the newly revised 2008-'09 budget.

During her monthly financial report, Randol pointed out $43,415 in revenues were received in July, while $1,763,392 was spent on expenditures.

"If you look at the note I put on the bottom of the report, you'll see that since July we have paid $1,719,977 from the fund balance," she said.

Unlike previous months, August contained three paydays instead of two, which is "one thing that hit the board hard," said Randol. She explained this usually occurs twice a year, but it just happened to fall in the middle of a financial crisis.

"In August, we have gotten BEP [Basic Education Program funds] in the amount of $2.6 million. That was probably taken up in the August 1 payroll. We have a payroll tomorrow [Aug. 29], and that again will be taken from the fund balance," said Randol.

"So, Cindy, this is…[the] continuing budget that the county commission keeps talking about? So how long will this budget last?" asked Gordon Davis, 5th District representative.

Randol suggested until the end of the month because one more BEP payment is expected around Sept. 20. Although some local sales tax could also come in, the amount will likely be less than what the BOE is anticipating.

According to VanWinkle, estimated revenues for last year came up short about $6 million. Even though the BOE plans to use $2.8 million from its fund balance, $3.2 million will still be needed to balance the budget.

"I would like to remind you that in that $3,207,000 are three projects that are under way—the two sewer projects and the Phoenix School," said the DOS.

VanWinkle is scheduled to attend a tentative meeting with the county budget committee on Monday, Sept. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in the large courtroom of the Cumberland County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.

"Unless they come up with some alternative, what we started we will have to stop," said Davis.

"This is exactly the reason why the decision to delay the opening of school was made," stated 2nd District representative Robert Safdie.