District renewal and financial flexibility

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

By Carol Herndon

Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of columns by Rowan-Salisbury Schools employees about becoming a renewal district. They appear each Thursday in the Education section. 

Our responsibility at Rowan-Salisbury Schools is to provide students with experiences, learning and resources to prepare them to succeed in life so that they graduate ready to be productive and contributing members of the community.

RSS understands that, for many of our students, public education is the only source of hope and possibility.

Our related commitment does not change as a renewal school system. I hear lots of conversation about our district’s financial flexibility under the new law.

What is financial flexibility?

Historically, Rowan-Salisbury Schools has received funding from the state in 25 to 30 different “buckets,” each with its own set of rules and regulations. If our district underspent in one bucket, it could not spend that money otherwise. The lack of flexibility led to the return of money back to the state each year.

As a renewal school district, RSS will receive its 2018-19 state allotments in one bucket with no restrictions.

Financial flexibility allows Rowan-Salisbury Schools to optimize state funding but should not be confused with financial freedom. Our district administration strongly believes increased responsibility and accountability comes along with flexibility. As a result, we are taking additional time to create our final 2018-19 state budget.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools received its initial state allotment of $118.8 million for this school year in mid-August. We are currently developing practical and actionable state budgets at the school and district department levels — budgets that will drive our success as a renewal school system and best serve our students.

Our 2018-19 state budgeting effort started by preserving funding, at 2017-18 levels or higher, for key programs like exceptional children, career and technical education, and English as a second language to ensure students in those programs have access to comparable funding compared with other North Carolina public school districts.

Principals and department directors will have final state budgets by the end of September. The finance department will support budget management across the district with training, monthly variance analysis, and access to improved analytical tools to ensure ownership and accountability for our spending.

District administrators understand the responsibility of financial flexibility and are grateful for the chance to optimize state funding to enable innovative and engaging learning — because our students deserve every opportunity for success and happiness.

Herndon is chief financial officer for Rowan-Salisbury Schools.