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Rowan County hit with unexpected Kannapolis City Schools budget request

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County officials weren’t expecting the budget request they received from Kannapolis City Schools this year. 

County Manager Aaron Church’s proposed budget shows Kannapolis City Schools requested an increase in funding that totals nearly $8 million. That is a 228 percent increase over what the county funded for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

When Church presented the proposed budget to the Rowan County commissioners earlier this month, he spoke only briefly about the size of the request.

“We plan to make an appointment with them and discuss some of their needs and request of this size in the future and how we can go about working together with Kannapolis in the future,” he said.

Despite the requested increase, Rowan County’s proposed budget provides only a $56,290 bump in funding for Kannapolis schools. That includes about $37,000 for operations and $16,000 for capital improvements.

The Rowan commissioners have not extensively discussed Kannapolis schools funding, most of which comes from Cabarrus County. In recent years, the Rowan commissioners have directed most of their attention to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools, which has more than $200 million in capital needs.

Asked recently about school funding, county commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said there are two options — take bites out of capital needs when possible or raise taxes.

“If we decide to do it all at once and become the highest-taxed community in the state, that’s going to kill our competitive position,” Edds said.

The large request from Kannapolis will encourage commissioners to discuss, in detail, the city school system’s needs, he said.

The big-ticket items in the Kannapolis City Schools request include stadium upgrades at A.L. Brown High School; baseball field lighting; repaving student and bus parking lots at A.L. Brown; removing asbestos floor tiles in Bullock Gym; relocating administrative offices at Kannapolis Intermediate School to the front wing for security purposes; building a covered walkway between two buildings at Kannapolis Middle School; replacing a mobile unit at McKnight Head Start; and heating and air conditioning renovations at Woodrow Wilson Elementary.

The most urgent item is repaving student and bus parking lots at A.L. Brown, said Will Crabtree, business operations director for Kannapolis schools. The lots have missing pavement and big ruts, Crabtree said.

The total list of needs in the Kannapolis school system is $21 million, which is about $6.3 million greater than what the school system submitted last year for capital needs. School officials, however, don’t expect Rowan County to foot the entire bill, Crabtree said. Instead, it’s a list of all the needs in the school system, he said. Crabtree said Kannapolis City Schools turned in a list of all its needs at once because that’s the format Cabarrus County commissioners requested.

Church said he took the $21 million amount and split it proportionately between Rowan and Cabarrus counties.

Cabarrus County will likely shoulder a larger part of the budget request than Rowan County. In local government, counties decide the overall funding level for local school systems, but school officials control individual expenditures.

In an interview Wednesday, Cabarrus County commissioners Chairman Steve Morris said he was not aware of any “big surprises” in Kannapolis City Schools capital needs. Morris said the number of new students coming into the county is one factor in Cabarrus County.

“We just have such a huge growth of students that we have a hard time keeping up,” Morris said.

If Rowan County commissioners decide to change the funding allocation to Kannapolis City Schools, discussion about the matter could come during an upcoming budget work session. The work session is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 5 in the Rowan County administration building. It will be open to the public.

 Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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