By Jessie Burchette
The county’s annual audit report sparked questions about the growth in student numbers versus the growth in the number of school employees.
Sam Leder of Potter & Co., who has done the county audit for a decade, pointed to a color graph in the report showing county population and school enrollment growth.
“Stay alert,” Leder warned during a recent presentation to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, adding that he has expected to see the number of students increase. “If that number balloons up, it will have a significant impact” on the county budget.
While other counties in the ring surrounding Charlotte are showing sharp increases in both population and student population, the numbers of students enrolled in Rowan County’s two systems has shown relatively little growth.
In the 10 years ending with the 2007 fiscal year, the county’s population grew by almost 8,500, from 127,346 to 135,931.
Meanwhile, public school enrollment in the county ó including both the Rowan-Salisbury and Kannapolis City school systems ó increased by fewer than 2,000 students during the same period, according to figures contained in the 2007 Comprehensive Financial Report.
Enrollment grew from 20,352 a decade ago to 22,077 in 2007 ó a total of 1,725 students.Figures from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction actually show the county’s school enrollment declined by three students from 2006 to 2007.
Another section of the report identified the Rowan-Salisbury School System as the county’s largest employer in 2007 with 3,455 employees ó an increase of 1,155 employees in the past 10 years.
Figures for school employees did not include Kannapolis City Schools. About five percent of the county’s total student population is in the Kannapolis system.
Commissioner Tina Hall, a retired educator, noted that while the student population grew 7.8 percent over 10 years, the number of school employees increased by more than 30 percent.Other information contained in the statistical section of the report shows that the number of county employees increased by 137 over the 10-year period, from 720 in 1998 to 857 in 2007. Most of the increases came in public safety and in human services.
Three of the county’s top employers in 1998 dropped out of the top 10 in 2007. They were Fieldcrest Cannon, Cone Mills and China Grove Textiles.
They were replaced by the city of Salisbury, Piedmont Correctional Institution and Meridian Automotive Systems.And the county’s top tax taxpayer for 2007 was Rowan County Power LLC, with an assessed value of $346 million. Duke Energy, which ranked No. 1 in 1998, dropped to second last year with a total assessed value of $252 million.
By Jessie Burchette