GCS Wants $19.9 Million In Budget From County

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Guilford County Schools invited WFMY News 2 to Page High School to get a first hand-look at examples of why the school system is requesting an additional $19.9 million from county commissioners.

The increase includes, $4 million to sustain operations, an additional $5 million for salary increases, and $8 million to restore cuts previously made. But it also includes more than $2 million for strategic planning for early literacy initiatives and school security.

But Guilford County Commissioner, Bill Bencini, says that amount of money will be difficult to come up with. He says an increase will be a challenge because the county doesn't have a lot of extra money thanks to a decline in revenue. Bencini says they've increased the amount of money they've given to the district over the past couple of years and it's possible to do that again, but probably not to the level the district would like.

But schools like Page High in Greensboro might suffer because of it. It's one of the schools waiting for expensive repairs. The boilers are 30 years old and should have been replaced years ago. Recently, the air-condition units were added to the long list of repairs.

"The total cost for both the boilers and the chillers is right at $800,000. But keep in mind that capital improvements from commissioners. The school district received $2 Million. At this one site we are going to spend almost half of that money to replace it. Unfortunately, we replicate the same type of wear and tear throughout the district. With $2 million and spend half of it here. Very easy we will spend the other half before the seasons out. Then, what happens?," said Gerald Greeson, Guilford County Schools Director of Maintenance.

The County Manager is expected to present his budget recommendation to commissioners on Thursday, May 22. Guilford County Commissioners are expected to hold a public hearing on the budget on Thursday, June 5, and should vote on a final budget during their meeting on Thursday, June 19.

Commissioners are required by state statute to vote on the school budget on or before July 1.

The school district maintains it must find ways to pay for increases across the board including student enrollment, health insurance, retirement, utilities, gas, insurance, and new classroom and school space.

The total budget request for the next school year is $197.1 million. The amount includes new operating funds for the 2014-15 school year and $10 million in capital outlay for school maintenance.

The following is from a news release detailing the request of the Guilford County Commission at $197.1 million including a $19.9 million increase to fund the district in four categories:

1. A $4 million increase to sustain basic operations.These costs reflect funding that is needed to sustain current operations and includes increase costs in student enrollment in GCS and charter schools (which receive local dollars directly from GCS), higher costs for health insurance, retirement and utilities. The district also needs to pay for additional square footage associated with the opening of the new Simkins Elementary School and Allen Jay Middle School, as well as installing at least one panic alarm in each school as mandated by the state legislature.

2. An increase of $4.1 million for salaries and other compensation programs. The requested increase in salaries represents a proposed state-pay increase of up to $2,200 for a certain category of beginning teachers. However, while the state may pay the increase for state-funded employees, GCS also has many other teachers paid with local funds – and the district has to cover that money. The state is also considering a 3 percent salary increase for all employees, which would leave GCS in the same position – scrambling to find the funds to cover that increase for all non-state funded positions.

The recommendation also includes approximately $903,000 in funding for Mission Possible, which would replace federal dollars that are scheduled to end during the 2013-14 school year. An additional $180,000 is for recruitment and retention funding for hard-to-fill medical and health-care educator positions.

3. An additional $8.5 million to restore cuts made as a result of the Great Recession. During the last six years, GCS has made substantial cuts to school-based positions, instructional materials and supplies and professional development, along with deep cuts in central office administration.

Among other cuts, GCS has increased the student-teacher ratio used to allocate positions to schools by 1.25 students in grades K-12, which increases class sizes and teacher workloads. These additional funds would restore the allocation by one student, providing schools with approximately 149 additional teacher positions. Without this funding, many of the educational opportunities that attract families to Guilford County may be lost, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, tutoring services for struggling students and Career and Technical Education options.

At some point, class sizes will simply get too large for teachers to manage well, especially in tested subjects such as reading, mathematics, English and science.

In addition, GCS has cut $5.1 million available to schools through Weighted Student Funding. Some students have circumstances that pose unique challenges for their academic success, and the weighted student formula addresses those challenges by providing additional resources to those schools to better support them. For example, a student impacted by poverty or who is an English Language Learner would receive a higher "weight" when determining funding.

4. An increase of $11.6 million to fund certain strategic plan initiatives and capital needs.The additional dollars would help GCS expand early-literacy efforts, enhance school security efforts and allow the district to assess facility conditions.

The recommended budget also includes $10 million in capital funds to provide adequate and safe learning environments for our students and employees. GCS' current capital outlay funding from the County amounts to only 16 cents per square foot, which isn't enough to cover routine and preventive maintenance, especially when more than half of all GCS schools are 50 years old or more.


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