Rowan-Salisbury Schools budget depends on state compromise

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2013

EAST SPENCER — Local school officials say the N.C. House has proposed a more favorable budget than the Senate, but the school board is still waiting to make its own budget calls.
At Monday’s meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, Chief Finance Officer Tara Trexler gave an update on the proposed budget passed by the House on Thursday.
It’s a lot different than the budget passed by the N.C. Senate, she said. The House proposal doesn’t cut funding quite as much, but it does include more regulations.
“With such varying degrees from both parts, it’s not feasible at this time for us to make decisions,” Trexler said.
The state’s final budget might not be decided for another few weeks, she said.
One of the biggest differences in the two proposals is funding for teacher assistants. The Senate would only fund teacher assistants in kindergarten and first grade, cutting about $3.6 million or 121 positions in Rowan County.
But the new House proposal would cut funding by a flat 4 percent and use the same formula for the allotment of teacher assistants.
The House proposal also would keep class size limits in place. It would keep the LEA adjustment, also known as the discretionary reduction, where the state asks school systems to return some of the appropriated money by making flexible reductions.
In the Senate’s budget, those flexible cuts would be replaced by a funding reduction for classroom teachers, instructional support personnel and instructional supplies. Because teachers would be cut, the Senate proposal would lift class size limits in first through third grades.
The Senate is expected to reject the House proposal, so the two chambers of the General Assembly will form a conference committee to work on a compromise.
In addition, the school board authorized athletic improvements at two high schools.
Board members approved a bid of about $304,000 from Carolina Siteworks of China Grove for a track replacement at West Rowan High School. Architectural and engineering fees are an additional $30,000, for a total cost of $334,000.
This will replace the old track, which school officials say is not actually useable for track meets, with a new one and a rubber running surface.
The board also agreed to allow Salisbury High School to move forward with an addition to its gymnasium complex.
During “phase one” of the plan, the school raised money and built a new athletic complex. “Phase two” is to transform the gymnasium into a field house and add a larger wrestling practice area, a larger and improved weight lifting area, a new class space and improved storage.
“As our athletic programs have grown, the current facilities no longer meet our needs as far as space and capacity,” said Principal Dr. Avis Williams.
The project would cost about $700,000 to $1 million, depending on which design is chosen.
Along with a fundraising campaign, Williams proposes applying for $10,000 per year for the next few years under the school system’s matching funds program. The Board of Education allots a certain amount of money in its budget each year to match funds that schools raise for their own projects.