Stanly County Schools faces payroll problem

Stanly County School Board member Dustin Lisk, representing the SCS Finance Committee, reported at last Tuesday’s meeting the financial state of the schools entering the current school year.

“Our (committee) meeting was to discuss the recent North Carolina budget that had passed in July,” said Lisk, who also referenced the board’s request to county commissioners for the current fiscal year.

“Our request was primarily for normal funding, and included a request for a 1.5% pay increase for teachers,” Lisk added, noting that a state mandate, requiring that classified employees be paid a minimum of $15 per hour, was implemented prior to the end of the previous fiscal year.

While SCS was able to cover the increase last fiscal year, he said, the system will need around $800,000 additionally “just to meet payment (this year).”

“We requested more than that,” said Lisk, who also noted that funding to update the pay scale for classified employees was included.

“Many employees are being paid at the same rate at which they entered, and have not had a step up in many, many years,” he added, “and in order to fix that, it is going to cost the school system around another million dollars per year, recurring funding.”

“I say all that to get to this,” said Lisk. “North Carolina passed the state budget in July, after last fiscal year. And what that means for Stanly County Schools is that in order to meet the bare minimum payroll, we’re going to run out (of funds) sometime in the spring.”

That will mean no increases for teachers and no pay scale correction in the immediate future, according to Lisk.

“We can’t fix the pay scale without the additional funding, and we can’t give our teachers the raises that they need,” he said.

However, Lisk expressed optimism in the board’s working relationship with the Stanly County commissioners as a possible means of covering the shortfall.

“We’ve got a good working relationship with the commissioners, and we’ve been in touch with them and some of the ones coming on board,” he said, “and I think we are going to be able to get something done in the future.

“It’s going to be some tough decisions,” Lisk added, noting that other factors could also hinder future funding.

“Child nutrition services costs went up three times before school started,” said Lisk, adding that certain qualifiers allow for certain schools to have their meals funded.

“All of our elementary schools, as well as Albemarle High School and Albemarle Middle School qualify,” he said, “but the county has to pick up the rest. We are trying to determine exactly what that’s going to be.”

Lisk summarized by saying, “What it really means is we’re going to have to have more money. And when you think about  our school system and what it’s going to take to make it work, we have to work with the county commissioners.

“We have some really good commissioners,” he continued. “I think they look out for the best interests of the taxpayers, but at the end of the day, we in Stanly County have to decide, including myself as a voter and a taxpayer, ‘When are we going to make our schools a higher priority?’ ”