Local Politics

Potential budget cuts hit classrooms to prisons

Posted November 22, 2010 6:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 22, 2010 7:22 p.m. EST

— State agencies have put thousands of jobs and numerous services on the chopping block to help erase a projected shortfall in next year's budget of more than $3 billion.

Gov. Beverly Perdue asked agencies in September to draw up a list of spending cuts of between 5 and 15 percent. The agencies began submitting their proposals to Perdue's office last week.

The reports indicate significant layoffs across all departments. The Department of Public Instruction, for example, indicates that up to 5,313 teachers and 13,259 teacher assistants statewide could be out of work under a 10 percent cutback.

"It is alarming," Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Monday.

Atkinson said the cuts would mean larger classes, fewer courses and less support for struggling students in North Carolina's public schools.

"When you look at our budget there, we have no place else to go," she said.

Many agencies said they cut all of the excess from their budgets over the past two years, when the state also had to close budget gaps.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services didn't even provide Perdue with possible spending reductions because Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said his programs couldn't stand any more cuts.

The report compiled by the Department of Correction includes cuts of only 2 percent. Spokeswoman Pamela Walker said most of the department's dollars go to the salaries of people who provide public safety, so it's hard to cut any more.

The DOC's suggested cuts include moving about 2,600 people who have been convicted of misdemeanors out of state prisons.

"We have to look at which ones are lower risk and lower needs," Walker said. "What we would do is look at how we would supervise them in the community. So, it's not something (where) they would be let out."

The DOC also is looking at eliminate transitional housing and treatment programs for hundreds of inmates and laying off dozens of litter crew supervisors and others.