School Board approves $15.6 million request
The Stanly County Board of Education has approved a county appropriation request of $15.6 million which will be presented to the county commissioners at a later time.
The draft budget also includes a projected $4 million for capital outlay funds, which is not part of the $15.6 million.
The appropriation request that came out of a finance committee meeting was $14.1 million, but board member Anthony Graves, who is on the committee, voted against the amount during the finance meeting because he thought the school system needed a budget that was “more reflective of the amount of money that the school system actually needs.”
Board members said the $14.1 million request was an 8.7 percent increase compared to last year’s request.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff James recommended increasing the amount by an additional $1.5 million to avoid having to cut three teacher and two assistant principal positions. The additional money would also help bring back some teacher assistants.
James said that “92 percent of our costs are people, so when we get a cut it’s a person.”
The board approved James’ request for the additional $1.5 million.
If the adequate funds are not allocated after the commissioners meet with the school board, it will result in personnel reductions, Finance Chairman Jeff Chance said.
Board member and former teacher Glenda Gibson was concerned, saying with all the work teachers and administrators have done throughout the pandemic to continue to teach and help students, “that’s a slap in the face” to think positions might be lost.
“Our county commissioners need to understand that’s teachers that we need in the classroom,” she added.
Graves said the money the school board is asking of the county commissioners “may be more than they’re willing to fund. We get it. That doesn’t mean we don’t need the money.”
A big reason the school system needs more money is because the state has issued several unfunded mandates, such as recent legislation reducing K-3 class sizes, that have been pushed onto school systems over the years without giving them any money to pay for them. James said the state likely owes Stanly County Schools several million dollars this year. At a meeting with the commissioners to discuss the budget last year, James said unfunded mandates were about $9 million.
James said middle school physical education teachers and exploratory classes are not funded through the state budget and instead rely upon local funding.
Graves said the commissioners should talk to state leaders to urge them to properly fund Stanly County Schools, noting the school board could go along with them.
“We’re not trying to make the county commissioners look bad,” he said, “we’re trying to get them to understand that the needs of the school system are real and they have an obligation to work with us to satisfy those needs.”
“That’s the expectation of the voters who put us all in office,” Graves added.
James said the $15 million is an amount that “would allow us to drastically impact learning.”