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School officials hoping local money enough to keep teachers happy

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury PostAs a former educator, Jim Emerson knows that good teachers go where the money is.
He purposefully started his career in Charlotte, where school leaders offered higher pay supplements than in surrounding areas.
Now as chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, Emerson has his fingers crossed that local teachers will get higher supplements, or local dollars tacked on to their state salaries.
Offering teachers an extra $500 a year from local money could help the school system recruit good teachers and keep them here, Emerson said.
“It seems so (important) for us to attract teachers from other communities,” he said.
The increase in supplements is part of the school board’s nearly $33.8 million local-money request for next year. That number is almost $3 million more than what county leaders shelled out to schools this year.
The budget calls for about $32.6 million, which is the state average. But it also asks for about $772,000 for supplements to teachers’ pay and about $402,500 for seven new technology jobs.
“This year, we’re going a little above and beyond,” said Tara Trexler, chief financial officer for the school system.
Schools will require about $1.4 million next school year for mandatory salary increases, travel costs, higher utility bills and other necessities, according to the budget.
The school system also needs almost $270,000 for the Rowan County Early College, which is set to open its doors in August at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. The money will pay for Early College teachers, office workers, a principal’s supplement and classroom technology.
If Rowan leaders decide the county can’t afford almost $3 million more for schools next year, school officials will have to make cuts. County leaders could grant schools the state average of $32,600,515.
Emerson hopes that won’t be the case. “The additional (teacher) supplement will go down the drain,” he said.
So would the seven technology facilitator positions, which are expected to cost about $400,000.
But some school board members said they know money is tight for the county. “We’re trying to be respectful,” said Karen Carpenter, a board member.
But the requested budget increase covers the “bare minimum” of school needs, Carpenter said.
Teacher supplements are especially important to her. “I think anything we can do to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers is important,” Carpenter said. “We need to be competitive.”

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