Limited funds for teacher supplements

Published 12:05 am Sunday, June 12, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury School system is struggling to preserve teacher salary increases after the county budget’s approval.

In April, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education sent a letter to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners requesting an additional $2.89 million to increase staff positions and provide bonuses. Part of that request — $2.4 million of it — would have covered a 2 percent salary increase for all staff.

The Board of Education will discuss what to do with the local funds at its Monday work session and its June business meeting later this month.

When the county approved its budget June 6, it only allotted a $1.7 million — or 4.8 percent — increase over the $35 million the county provides the system for operating costs.

Chairman Josh Wagner said that, despite limited funds, incentives for teachers will still top the list.

“I think that’s going to be priority, and we’ll just use that money as best we can at this point,” he said.

In reality, the system may have even less than that to work with. Should the state approve a 5 percent salary increase for teachers, the majority of the new money would be needed to cover district teachers who are paid out of local funds. In a document attached to the board’s online agenda, system officials estimate that the state raise would require $1.1 million of the new money, leaving only $460,000 to use in local supplement increases or other requested items. A 1 percent salary increase for all staff would cost approximately $1.2 million.

The system may choose to allot bonuses, instead of an across-the-board pay raise, Wagner said.

Wagner said they would not know how things stood until the state budget was received after the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

The board also requested a $3 million expansion for capital outlay projects such as roofing and paving, which was not granted. Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said the school system will receive $2.1 million for capital projects from revenue generated by sales tax, but it doesn’t come close to covering the more than $30 million in maintenance costs the system currently has.

“As we work through the 2016-2017 capital budget process, we understand that our current capital needs outweigh our current funding capabilities. This realization is not unique to Rowan County and is experienced across the state. Our plan is to prioritize our capital needs as we continue to work with our board, county commissioners, and continue to search for funding solutions,” Vann said in an e-mail.

However, Wagner and Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody believe the county is doing what it can. According to county budget documents, providing the school system with the requested increases would have required a 4.7 cent property tax rate increase. Wagner said the county provided the school system with an increase over last year’s budget, and he said he felt they gave what they could without increasing taxes.

“I think the county is doing a good job trying to meet our needs,” he said.

“I believe the county commissioners are committed to education and would like to do more. They join us in the struggle to increase salaries,” Moody said.

The board will meet for its monthly work session Monday at 1 p.m. in the Wallace Educational Forum board room.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.