UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- The area's fastest growing county is facing some of the toughest budget cuts and leaders say those cuts will hit the classroom.

Union County Is in debt, revenue is down and so is state funding. That means the schools will pay the price. In the best case scenario, they have to find a way to cut $20 million.

NewsChannel 36 visited a preschool class at Benton Heights Elementary School where the only thing the four-year-olds are concerned about is learning their right from their left. But the people around those kids have much bigger concerns -- for the young students. Pre-K is one of the programs on the chopping block.

We re looking at possible cuts to positions, programs that we have, Principal Mike Harvey said.

Harvey started at the school as a teacher 13 years ago. He knows every student by name. He also serves on the county's budget development committee, so he knows how tight things are.

I haven't ever heard it this bad from media and what legislators are telling us in my 13 years here as a teacher or as an administrator, Harvey said.

Many people are worried.

Oh I m concerned, said teacher s assistant Helena Faulkner. I hope they can keep pre-K. It prepares them for school.

Her job is also on the line.

I m worried about that too, I need to work, she said. I got a college student so I need to work.

Harvey says keeping people like Faulkner is vital.

Protecting the core of what we do, the instruction, that's got to remain in place, he said. We have to have quality teachers in every classroom.

Except figuring out how to make that happen seems a whole lot harder than figuring out your right from your left.

Where is it okay to make cuts? It s not okay to make cuts anywhere in my opinion, Harvey said. In education we re already functioning at the baseline level.

There is a lot of uncertainty right now. We should know more in May when the county manager has to make budget recommendations.

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