News Column

Education officials present local budget requests

May 28, 2014

By J.D. Walker, The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.



May 28--ASHEBORO -- Randolph County's two school systems and the community college presented their budget requests Tuesday before the board of commissioners in the face of a proposed budget that holds the line at last year's rate.

The total requested is for $30,648,148 in local funding. The education allocation proposed by County Finance Director Will Massie is equal to the 2013-14 amount of $27,592,041.

In his budget presentation, Massie outlined several complicating factors when it comes to school financing. He said Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed raising entry level salaries for new teachers. If that passes, that will affect the amount of dollars county government has to pay toward teacher salaries. Additionally, Massie said, last year the General Assembly removed the statutory allocation for lottery proceeds, making it unclear what financial resources will be available for school construction and the debt already incurred for such projects.

Massie pointed out, current direct appropriations for education in Randolph County already make up 23 percent of the proposed 2014-15 budget. Including the portion of debt service paid by the county for school facilities and the transfer to the Randolph Community College Capital Project, the county's commitment to education is over 36 percent of the total expenditures.

Representatives from Asheboro City Schools (ACS) asked for $6,221,151. The increase, said Superintendent Dr. Diane Frost, is needed for increased teacher pay, increased hospital and retirement benefit costs, and the impact from charter schools. The budget proposed by Massie is for $5,335,034, equal to what ACS received from the county in 2013-14.

ACS is also asking for an increase in the city school district's supplemental tax rate from 13.85 cents to 14.37 cents per $100 property valuation to match the revenue neutral rate resulting from the recent property revaluation in Randolph County.

The difference between what the Randolph County School System (RCSS) is asking for and what the proposed budget included is much greater. County schools have asked for $21,459,762. The budget proposed by Massie is $19,374,007, the same as the last budget.

RCSS Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey said the increase is needed to help pay for a half-percent employee supplement raise, next school year's opening of the Randleman Fifth Grade Academy, to cover continuation costs, technology replacements and upgrades, and the start of a multi-year plan to repair school facilities.

Randolph Community College President Dr. Bob Shackleford presented a budget of $2,892,235. That is $79,235 more in local funding for the upcoming fiscal year to cover increased employee benefits costs, property insurance and expenses associated with its expanded space. However, the county has proposed to fund $2,813,000, the same as last year.

In his Power Point presentation, Shackleford told the board that health insurance for employees at Randolph Community College (RCC) has increased 27 percent since the 2008-09 budget. Retirement costs have increased 80 percent, he said. Shackleford added RCC has started several new programs like its cosmetology, welding and medical assisting programs -- all needed, but all of which add to the college's budget.

He added that RCC has had no increase in the county budget since 2008-09 and in fact, saw decreases in the budget in the 2010-11 budget cycle. Shackleford said more demands are being placed on the community school system every year. Legislators seem to recognize the need for and benefits of a strong community college system, but they are reluctant to fully fund it, Shackleford said.

Shackleford told commissioners, if a state plan to push workman's compensation payments down to the school board level succeeds, that will cost RCC just over $80,000 above and beyond what is in the 2014-15 budget. Trying to work with and around the complications that lawmakers throw at locals makes the process of trying to balance the budget and meet community needs that much harder.

"We couldn't do it with out the dedication of the people you see sitting on the front row there," he said, pointing to members of his staff in attendance.

No decisions were made on school requests on Tuesday. The next budget hearing will be held on Thursday, June 5, from 6-8 p.m. when county department heads will make requests to the board.

___

(c)2014 The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.

Visit The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C. at www.courier-tribune.com

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Source: Courier-Tribune (Asheboro, NC)


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