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Rowan-Salisbury school board parses budget requests

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education jumped into budget season Thursday during a called meeting.

In addition to deciding which budget items to request that the county cover in the upcoming year, the board passed several of its own provisions.

Board members ranked the 14-item list from most to least important before the start of the meeting. As they did, three requests rose to the top: teacher supplements, substitute pay and elementary school resource officers.

“Those are the only three line items that a majority of the board had in the top five,” board Chairman Josh Wagner said.

The teacher supplement increase is based on a 2015 salary study, which recommended the district boost supplements to offer competitive salaries. Back then, the board voted to steadily increase supplements over a three-year period. The $400,000 line-item on this year’s budget request list marks the final installment.

The increase was approved unanimously.

When it came to substitute pay increases, part of the board balked. This year’s budget list represents more than $3.7 million in needs on top of the school system’s current budget, and there is only so much money to go around.

But many of the items — such as transportation to Knox Middle School’s magnet program or funding for the early college — aren’t really optional.

“At some point, no matter what we approve, if we don’t have funding freed up we’re going to have to allocate it out of fund balance or request it in next year’s funding,” Wagner said.

After some discussion, the board agreed that it might be possible to partially approve some of the items. At that point, board member Richard Miller made a motion to approve 50 percent of the requested $325,000 for substitute pay increases. The board voted to approve the motion, allocating $162,500.

The board also unanimously approved as much as $881,916 to place school resource officers in seven elementary schools beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

At a previous meeting, the board agreed to hire part-time help from local law enforcement agencies to cover schools for the remainder of the 2017-18 year. Because of that, and because of recent discussions with law enforcement agencies, district staff said it might actually cost less than predicted.

Administrators also have applied for a grant to cover the costs of adding elementary school resource officers.

“If we get the grant, that’s something we can come back and discuss if we want to supplant that,” Wagner said.

At first, the board planned to leave it at that, but board member Dean Hunter spoke up.

“I feel bad not including the (early college) funding,” he said. “…That’ll need to be done either way.”

The early college would have nearly a $100,000 shortfall in the 2018-19 year due to state budget cuts, unless the district or the county steps in.

The board unanimously agreed to cover the $97,000 out of its fund balance.

“That is a recurring issue and certainly something we want to continue,” Wagner said.

At the urging of Superintendent Lynn Moody, the board also agreed to allocate as much as $85,000 out of its fund balance to hire a lead counselor.

After some discussion, the board agreed to include a request that the county provide funding for student support services staff, a front-office position at Erwin Middle School and transportation costs to Knox Middle.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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