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Board delays decision on classroom supply funds

Employee cuts are still part of county budget
By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Commissioners have delayed a final decision on using classroom supply money to keep teachers.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners did stay the course Monday on proposed cuts of employees, despite a plea from an employee and department heads.
The board had scheduled non-binding votes on the supply money, employee cuts and tying the Rowan County Rescue Squad’s annual allocation to a portion of one-cent on the tax rate.
Instead, the “straw votes” never occurred, leaving Chairman Carl Ford to quip they had burned the straw.
At the outset, Commissioner Chad Mitchell said he would not pursue the Rescue Squad proposal. That leaves the Squad with $412,000 in the upcoming budget.
Under the proposal considered last week, the squad’s funding would have been cut more than $50,000.
The board was sharply divided over a proposal by Mitchell to allow the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to use $375,000 earmarked annually for classroom supplies to retain some teaching positions being lost due to state funding cuts.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain said he had met with Dr. Judy Grissom and she would like the flexibility to use the money to keep teachers.
Commissioner Tina Hall said the money has made a huge difference in the classroom, helping teachers get needed supplies.
Mitchell and Hall sparred at length. Mitchell, a teacher at East Rowan High School, said all the teachers he has talked with favor using the money to save teaching jobs.
Hall, a retired elementary school principal, said all the teachers she has talked with want the money retained for supplies.
Hall challenged whether Mitchell and Barber, also a teacher in the Rowan-Salisbury system, could vote since they have a direct financial interest.
Mitchell and Barber said they checked with legal authorities, and pledged not to accept any of the supply funds, clearing them to vote.
The board continued the debate, with Mitchell saying if the state cuts teacher pay by 2.5 percent, most of the proposed cuts in school budgets won’t happen.
Commissioners agreed to wait until June 30 to decide the issue, following a June 15 public hearing.
The $125 million budget has no pay raises or cost of living increases for employees. It keeps schools at current funding levels and retains the current 59.5-cent tax rate.
Due to a drastic decline in sales taxes and other revenues, the budget calls for spending $7.5 million in savings.
Commissioners didn’t vote on plans to eliminate two building inspector jobs as well as one position in the Register of Deeds Office. Instead they opted to support County Manager Gary Page’s recommendation that eliminates the jobs on July 1.
Page recommended eliminating seven positions that have been vacant since Oct. 2008 when a freeze on hiring was put in place.
In addition, the county manager has recommended eliminating two building inspectors, and two sanitarians. Three middle-school resource officers will also be eliminated because the school system will no longer fund the positions.
The resource officers will be transferred to other vacant jobs in the Sheriff’s Office. The Health Department has opted to eliminate two vacant nursing positions and keep the sanitarians.
That leaves two building inspectors facing loss of their jobs on July 1.
Brian Atwell, one of the inspectors, appealed to the board during public comment to retain the inspector positions. Instead of cutting the positions, he suggested the county delay buying new vehicles and cut down on the number of days county buildings are cleaned.
He said the employees are willing to work in maintenance or wherever needed to retain their jobs.
Coltrain again suggested all county employees take one unpaid furlough day, which would offset the salary of the employees at risk. He drew no support.
Mitchell said employees who are cut will be first in line for any vacant county jobs. In other matters, the board:
– Honored three high school teams and their coaches for winning championships. They included: South Rowan High School JROTC Raider Challenge team, took first place in a four state competition; Salisbury High School Women’s Tennis Team, state 2-A champions; Salisbury High School Men’s Outdoor Track Team, state 2A champions for the third time.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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