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Board of Education looks to submit budget message to county by April 17

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools is approaching its budget planning season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and the district is attempting to forge ahead with its budget timeline.

Each year, the district prepares a budget message that it presents to the county commissioners before the presentation of a draft budget. It’s something that gives commissioners an idea of what the board’s funding priorities are going into the budgeting process. Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon said the district is behind on the budget process because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the district, but the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is behind as well.

The Board of Education reconvened a meeting Friday and discussed the coming budget with the hope it can approve a final message to commissioners next week. If that happens, it could be ready to present to the commissioners on April 17. If the district can not come to an agreement on the budget message by the April 17 deadline, it will ask for an extension from the county.

“Personally, I’d love to see it continue to move forward and not delay it if we don’t need to,” School Board Chair Kevin Jones said.

The draft budget presented last week described $2.2 million in new funding for the district divided into a few categories:

  • Local share of proposed state budget increases for salaries and benefits, $800,000
  • Align classified salaries to 2017 Salary Study (phase-in over 3 years), $1 million
  • Enhance student support services, $300,000:
  • Develop professional development and employee induction strategy, $100,000

At the Friday meeting, board member Josh Wagner said he believes the board should have more time to look over the message before it is approved.

Board member Susan Cox said she preferred to have the message ready by April 17.

Jones noted the two opinions were not incompatible, and the board could still meet about the message again before the deadline.

 Wagner also pointed to the salary study, as something the district should reconsider when bringing the budget to commissioners because of the state of the world. Cox and Jones agreed.

“While I absolutely believe that all of our staff, including our classified staff, needs their income to go up, I just don’t know if with these times, based on what we’re going to, if it’s the right time to ask that of the county,” Wager said.

Cox pointed out that the budget is for a full year and there is uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last.

Board member Dean Hunter said he wanted to rewrite the section of the budget that discusses the district’s use of local capital funding to include more specifics about how recent capital funding has been allocated.

The board has also been awarded $715,000 of $50 million distributed among the districts in the state which can be used for certain expenses related to COVID-19. 

Several board members voiced that, even though the district could possibly put those funds toward its 1:1 technology lease payment, it would not be in the spirit the funds were intended. Herndon said the district could purchase more mobile hotspots to give more students reliable internet access while schools are closed.

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