Stanly County Schools seeks $1.3 million more in funding from commissioners

Published 2:33 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2022

For its upcoming budget, Stanly County Schools is seeking an additional $1.3 million to compensate its employees and provide teacher supplements comparable to those in surrounding counties.

County Manager Andy Lucas recommended $16.8 million for the school system for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, much less than the $18.1 million the district initially requested in May during a budget presentation.

Superintendent Jarrod Dennis briefly spoke at the Board of Commissioners meeting last week about the need for the district to bridge the gap between what was requested and what Lucas has recommended.

“While I greatly appreciate the monies you give, we do have some monies we desperately need and all of it goes towards our pay for our folks,” Dennis said.

The school district needs an additional $600,000 to meet an unfunded mandate from the state to increase pay for classified staff — those without teaching licenses — from $13 to $15 per hour beginning next school year. It also needs about $750,000 to compensate classified employees based on how long they’ve worked for the district. As of now, an employee who has worked within the district for two decades can still receive roughly the same as someone who just started.

“I’ve got people who haven’t moved steps in five to six years,” Dennis said.

SCS also would like to bump up its teacher supplements from five percent, which Dennis said was one of the lowest in the area, to six percent, in order to be more competitive with surrounding districts, especially smaller, rural ones to the east.

“Even going east looking at Montgomery County, they have higher supplements than we do,” Dennis told commissioners. “We’re having a hard time retaining people and if we cannot meet these supplements, if we can’t even get close to the tier 1 counties to our east, then we’ll just keep bleeding people.”

In April, the Stanly County Board of Education approved changing teacher supplements from a tier-based system to one based on percentage of pay, specifically five percent of the teachers’ annual salary.

Dennis informed the commissioners that he cannot utilize ESSER funds to help with payroll; that money can only go to mitigating the impact of COVID-19.

As a result of many teachers missing instructional time due to the pandemic and also leaving for better-paying districts, Dennis mentioned the district had to pay $3 million in substitute pay this year. In previous years, the total has usually been under $2 million.

“I gotta look after my people,” Dennis said about improving pay. “My people have been coming to me and saying we’ve been hearing about this for years and years and years and I really think we’re at the event horizon. This is kind of a now or never type thing.”

The original budget the school system drafted called for $14.7 million for local current expenses, including $7.4 million for salaries and teacher supplements, along with $3.3 million for the capital outlay fund, including $1.2 million for roofing upgrades. SCS received $16.5 million from Lucas and the commissioners for its budget last school year.

In an interview with Lucas, he said he’s already met with Dennis and Terry Dudney, the school system’s finance officer,” and I think we’ve come up with a reasonable resolution to the gap.”

“What they’re asking for exceeds our available revenue, when you look at all the other priorities our board is trying to accomplish, whether it be public safety or health and human services or other educational initiatives,” Lucas said. “So we’re trying to strike a balance there between all those things and not raising taxes with the available revenue we have.”

During a Board of Commissioners budget workshop Thursday, Lucas said the commissioners took an unofficial straw poll and voted to approve an additional $500,000 to go along with the $548,000 Lucas had recommended for the school system. All told, if approved as part of the final budget, the extra $1.05 million would bridge most of the gap for what the school system requested.

Commissioners are required by law to have a budget in place by June 30, to go into effect July 1. Lucas anticipates the commissioners will adopt the county budget no later than June 21.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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