Education supporters ask county commissioners for increased funding
By Jessie Burchette
More than 100 supporters of the Rowan-Salisbury School System urged county commissioners to increase funding in the upcoming budget to help offset state cuts.
The crowd filled the meeting room and an overflow room, as speakers took turns thanking commissioners for their previous support for education.
Speakers called on the board to commit to state average per-pupil funding for 2010 ó $1,670 per student.
The county’s proposed budget keeps funding at the current level, $1,565 per student. To meet the higher level would require an additional $1.5 million for both the Rowan-Salisbury and Kannapolis systems.
Dr. Jim Emerson, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, said school officials aren’t oblivious to other vital services but called on commissioners to raise the funding level.
More than a dozen teachers, teacher assistants and school supporters sounded similar themes.
April Williamson, the system’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, said instead of working to maintain state average funding, the county is sliding backward. She noted the county took $345,000 back from the current budget.
Patty Overcash, president of the county PTA council, said the budget is “being balanced on the back of children.”
Randy Welch, chairman of the Rowan County Chamber Board of Directors, also called for increasing school spending to state average.
Other speakers also asked commissioners to allow classroom supply money to be converted to retaining teachers, estimating the $375,000 could save eight or nine jobs.
Commissioners gave no indication if they will provide any additional money for the schools.
Fearing action by the General Assembly, the board agreed to wait until June 29 at 7 p.m. to adopt the budget.
Chairman Carl Ford noted he was in Raleigh and met with legislators. Ford said legislators are looking at every way to get the state out of its budget hole, including transferring the upkeep of secondary roads to the county and again making the county pay a portion of Medicaid costs.
Ford said either the roads or Medicaid would run $9 million or more.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell blasted the state for trying to balance its budget on the backs of counties. Mitchell said he is disgusted with what the state has done.
He added that if the state doesn’t come to its senses, it will devastate counties across the state.
The proposed county budget keeps the current tax rate of 59.5 cents per $100 valuation.
The budget includes using over $7 million from county savings.
County employees would not get a cost-of-living pay increase and 14 positions would be eliminated under the current proposal.