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School board hears about funding challenges ahead as state works on budget

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will have to make some tough choices as it figures out next year’s budget, according to Carol Herndon, chief financial officer for the school district.

At a meeting Monday night at the Wallace Education Forum, Herndon started with the good news that the Rowan County commissioners have included $81.5 million in debt capacity and will provide $300,000 for security resources at the 19 county elementary schools.

“The challenge that we face as we move into our budget season is without any incremental or additional spending or funding (other than) the $300,000 that we received for the security resources at our elementary schools, we are going to be faced with some funding decisions,” Herndon said.

Herndon said as state lawmakers contemplate three versions of the state budget, it appears likely that teachers will receive an increase in salary.

 “And now it looks like in all levels and all positions — both certified, classified,” she said.

She said she knows for sure that retirement and health care benefits will increase.

“If all other things stay the same, which is unlikely in the world that we live in, we start next year in a little bit of a hole, because we don’t have any incremental local funding to share and cover the local share of what we know will be a state-mandated increase in salary benefits,” she said. “So we’ll have to think as we move through this budget and learn more about what we can get from the state about how to fund those increases for our locally funded staff.”

Herndon also explained that maintenance costs will be higher than they were this year.

“I feel strongly that we do not want to fall back in a space of deferring maintenance in our school buildings. And first and foremost, we want to keep our young people comfortable and safe in the buildings that they (are) in,” she said. “We have some tough choices to make.”

She expects the state budget to be final as late as August.

The school board will meet in July to discuss capital needs.

Of the $81.5 million in needs identified, $6.5 million will be for updates to heating and air conditioning systems. The board will decide what to do with the remainder. A total of $21.5 million will be available immediately and $60 million will be available in 2021.

The school board approved spending $6.5 million for HVAC replacements that Erwin Middle School on St. Luke Church Road in Salisbury, will will be used as collateral for debt.

Anthony Vann, assistance superintendent for operations, said it is fairly standard to use property as collateral to obtain a loan from the Local Government Commission, which is a part of the State Treasurer’s Office that evaluates government finances.

“One of the reasons why we selected Erwin Middle School is because it has one of the larger single heating and air systems that would be put there,” Vann said. “They have some of the lion’s share of money relative to some of the other projects.”

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will receive $600,000 from the loan, and the school system will get $6.5 million.

Vann said the community college would not provide any collateral.

Other business:

• The board announced that Amanda Macon has been named the new principal of China Grove Middle School.

• The board was given revisions on the student fee schedule. The nursing fee for uniforms increased to $52, and a PE locker fee of $10 was added. All other fees will remain the same.

School board member Jean Kennedy asked April Kuhn, the district’s chief legal officer, if the fees, particularly the locker feel, would be a hindrance for students who should be getting a free education, especially considering the poverty level in the county. Kuhn said Kennedy’s point was well taken and she would assess the cost.

• The board approved selling property on Clay Street for $6,300 to WV LCC of Concord after no additional bids were received.

• The board scheduled its next business meeting for 5 p.m. June 27.

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