Board of Education expresses frustration over local budget needs

Board also passes resolutions taking positions on state legislation

ALBEMARLE – The Stanly County Schools Board of Education met Tuesday, June 6 with a presentation on budget needs and two resolutions taking a stance on proposed legislation current in the General Assembly.

The board began by expressing their frustration over the proposed 2023-24 budget for Stanly County Schools.

The biggest takeaway from the presentation was that the board felt that their local funding from the county was not sufficient enough to meet their needs.

According to the presentation, SCS has received a 15% increase in local funding over a five-year period which is not in line with the county’s growth.

“As a five-year trend, SCS is not growing proportionate to the county’s revenue,” said Superintendent Jarrod Dennis. “We are growing, so our revenue source has to grow with us. If not, then think about what that would look like.”

Currently, the projected per-pupil allotment for SCS traditional students equates to $1,632.60, which is the lowest among the surrounding counties.

“When you see Montgomery ranked 36th, Anson ranked 50th and then Stanly ranked 94th, it is appalling,” said Board Chair Glenda Gibson. “I hope that with the resolutions that we have done, that people who are watching this, that they see that we are working hard, we’re trying, but this is unacceptable to be 94th in ranking.”

Some of the increases in cost the board is looking at is $1,200,000 for a 1% certified supplement increase and $1,400,000 to create a new pay scale for classified employees, but the county is only set to cover $1,100,000.

Also according to Dennis, in order to meet supplements, SCS has to take $1.75 million out of local current expenses because the county only covers $375,000 for supplements.

“We need the full funding,” said board member Dustin Lisk. “If I recall correctly from the county manager’s budget request, it showed that around an additional $0.043 in tax would have fully funded every request from every agency that they are responsible for. I would remind the public that when the past commissioner board did a revaluation, our tax rate was previously set at $0.67 and the board decided to lower that to $0.61. How I view that is it’s great because I want to pay less tax, but in some sense, our county folks could have met those amounts halfway and fully funded our requests. I want everybody to pay less taxes, but at the same time, we have substantial needs as a school system.”

One action that did come out of the presentation was a motion to have the county directly pay the SRO funding to the sheriff’s department and not have the funds pass through SCS.

“Currently, the money for SROs is given to us and we’re used as the fiscal agent to pay the Sheriff’s Department,” Dennis said. “We make a quarterly check cut to the Sheriff’s Department. The charter schools also then get a chunk because it’s a local current expense, so SCS has to pull money out of other local current expenses to make that back up. If the county just cuts the check straight to the sheriff’s office, we don’t have to make that money up and it will change our per-pupil allotment. They’re not my employees, yet I’m holding their money.”

The board also unanimously approved two resolutions regarding legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly.

The first resolution that the board passed was a statement in opposition of HB 823, a bill that would allow all families the option of using the state’s popular Opportunity Scholarships program.

“Choose Your School, Choose Your Future is a universal voucher program which is scheduled to direct billions of dollars of available public school funds to private schools, which are not equally available to all students and have no objective oversight process for how they use public dollars,” Dennis said. “The Stanly County Schools Board of Education opposes any voucher bill or budget provision that does not include a household budget limit as part of an eligibility criteria and does not meet the North Carolina State Constitutional obligation to provide a free and uniform system of public education to all students.”

Dennis stated the bill does not include an income threshold, which is accurate according to the latest version of the proposed legislation. The bill makes all families eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship program, with limits placed on amounts available by income and funds allotted cannot exceed the cost of tuition.

“When vouchers first came about, they were to help our children that were low-income in poverty stricken areas and now it has evolved to this,” said Board Chair Glenda Gibson.

The second resolution the board passed was a statement related to choosing a specific legislative bill regarding pay increases for teachers, bus drivers and other school employees.

“The Stanly County Schools Board of Education supports a competitive market salary to recruit and retain high-quality, full time teachers and other school employees. Inadequate pay has long been an outstanding issue that has increased dramatically,” Dennis said. “The Senate budget proposal allocates approximately $407.4 million over the biennium for pay increases to all school district personnel compared to the house proposal of $1.068 billion over the biennium. A difference of more than $660 million.

“The Stanly County Schools Board of Education opposes edition five of House Bill 259 2023 Appropriations Act and favors edition three of House Bill 259 2023 Appropriations Act that includes 10.2% increase in teacher pay and a 9.5% increase in bus driver pay over the biennium.”

“We’re well aware of the fact that these folks need better pay,” said Vice Chair Carla Poplin. “We can’t compete with our neighboring counties without it.”

The Stanly County Schools Board of Education will next meet July 11.