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Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education is planning for a continuation in frozen capital funding as the district waits for a finalized budget from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Associate Superintendent of Resources Carol Herndon on Monday talked the school board through $38.7 million in current expenses and $2.5 million capital outlay budgets for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, including a note that millions in capital funding has been frozen for the past year. The district’s total annual budget is about $190 million, and the funding described on Monday only represents the local share. School board members approved the proposed budget, which is headed to Rowan County commissioners for further action.

A continuation budget, which describes $2.7 million in funding increases from the previous year required to maintain the same level of staffing and operations, is split into four areas:

• Expenditures deferred due to the pandemic or funded by relief efforts.

• Pay increases to locally paid staff.

• An increase in district contribution to retirement funds for locally paid staff.

• An increase in health care costs for locally paid staff.

Herndon said increases to staff pay of about 3% for both classified and certified employees is expected to be mandated in the state’s finalized budget. So, the district wants to honor locally-funded employees with the same increase as those paid via state funding.

Of the continuation expenses, the greatest by far is deferred expenses totaling $1.76 million. However, the district’s local revenue exceeds its expenses for the previous year by $1.84 million. That excess revenue will roll over into the district’s fund balance.

Herndon said the district’s expenditures are lower than anticipated revenue for this fiscal year because of its focus on pandemic-related items, many of which were paid for.

“Because we were directed and focused on keeping our schools and facilities and our children and our staff safe, we didn’t spend those monies,” Herndon said.

Herndon said the district normally receives around the $2.5 million in capital funding from the county via sales tax and will know more about the totals in the coming months. She told the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education the $75 million in capital funding the county previously dedicated to the district is awaiting is still frozen.

That frozen funding includes $50 million for the construction of a new K-8 between Knox Middle and Overton Elementary schools and $25 million in capital funding the district has not designated yet. Herndon said County Manager Aaron Church is hopeful the funds will be available this summer.

Board member Dean Hunter asked why the capital funds are still frozen, and Herndon responded funds have been frozen based on economic uncertainty created by the pandemic. The county was planning on borrowing the funding for the schools.

The district’s projected average daily membership for students is 18,044 with an allotted 18,402 from the state currently. The district closed out February with an average daily membership of 17,913. Those figures do not account for impact from the possible closure of Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School and the expected opening of Faith Academy Charter School.

Herndon said the state looks at the figures after the first couple months of school and adjust allotments based on membership at that point. Districts receive state funding per-student.

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