Thursday, May 22, 2014

Budget Update

Last week the Governor released his recommended state budget for 2014-15.  In addition, the County Manager released his recommended local operating budget for 2014-15.  We felt it was important to provide our community with an overview how the two recommended budgets impact our school system.

The Governor’s budget recommends a sorely needed salary increase for teachers.  The majority of the increase is focused on teachers at the beginning of their careers.  While this is a positive first step, it falls far short of meeting the needs of our workforce.  Multiple years of no raises, and legislation enacted by the General Assembly, have placed us at a competitive disadvantage to recruit and retain teachers.  Our turnover rate is the highest it has been in over ten years.  We are losing teachers to other states, and teachers are leaving the profession.  The Governor is funding a teacher raise by recommending cuts elsewhere, including cutting the UNC system, reducing levels of teacher assistant support, and transferring state insurance claim costs to local school systems.  This follows significant permanent reductions made to our state budget last year – including the permanent cut of nearly 40 teacher positions and 25 teacher assistant positions.  Having highly qualified and talented teachers is the single most important factor for student success.    It is imperative that concerned North Carolinians let the Governor and General Assembly know how important it is to properly fund and support our schools and teachers.

The County Manager is recommending an additional $95 per pupil allocation.  While this additional amount is appreciated, it does not nearly fund our request.  We had requested a $314 per pupil increase.  Our budget request is comprised of primarily of three components: funding to support a raise for locally paid teachers and staff; funding to cover mandated medical and retirement matching increases; and funding to support positions that had been previously supported by fund balance.  Our budget request is generally limited to maintaining existing services and providing teachers a raise.

If the County Manager’s recommended budget is adopted, we will need to make approximately $2.7 million in reductions to balance our budget.  This would result in significant position losses and services in our schools.  We have compiled a list of possible reductions, including reducing gifted specialist positions, media assistant positions, teacher assistant positions, theater technicians, and many others.  The complete list is available at the following link:  April 17, 2014 Board of Education Meeting Budget Agenda Abstract.

We are hopeful that the county commissioners will be able to increase the amount of funding for public education.  We know they have been trying their best to do so despite increasing pressures from state reductions, while simultaneously not raising property taxes.

Decisions that impact our budget will be made over the next two months.  We anticipate a state budget being adopted in June.  The county budget process includes two public hearings (May 22 and May 29) and then the county commissioners will discuss and adopt a budget in June.  Once the state and county budgets are adopted, the Board intends to approve its final budget on July 17, 2014.  We will do our very best to keep the public informed as we navigate this difficult financial situation.

For parents looking for ways to advocate, please visit the PTA Council blog for assistance.

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