The 2014-15 school year is quickly coming to a close and I expect our students to achieve at a very high level. New Hanover County Schools continues to be the leader in the southeast region, surpassing surrounding counties. We are one of the highest performing urban districts in the state. This could not happen without county government support. Their support means:
• Assistance to overcome unfunded state and federal mandates.
• Additional teachers to support more high-needs students.
• Teacher assistants to help with small group instruction, which allows teachers to reach all students.
• More students will graduate than ever before.
• Opportunity to attract the best teachers and staff possible.
Our 2015-16 Budget Request is for $75,997,200, including both Operating and Capital funding. This budget request exceeds the prior year by $5.2 million (8%). The increase is being driven by several factors that include unfunded mandates from the state, increased cost for employee benefits and our desire to provide the best education possible for the students of New Hanover County. The budget was crafted with the needs of our students, front and center. Operating needs exceed the County Request by $2,320,000, and our recommendation includes using $1,033,000 of fund balance. For Capital Outlay, in addition to the County Request our recommendation includes use of available State Lottery and Technology Funds, along with fund balance in the amount of $1,033,000.
The first budget driver is unfunded mandates. A prime example of this is Driver Education funding. The state budget eliminates the funding for this mandatory program for next year and does not allow districts to charge enough to cover the cost of this program. While we hope the state corrects this, we have to develop our budget plan based on current law. Other anticipated mandates include estimated increases for state salaries, health care costs and employer contributions to the retirement system.
The next driver in this budget is student growth. We must ensure we have enough teachers to deal with our growing district. Our student population increased by over 300 this school year, and we are forecasting growth for the upcoming school year. We anticipate the budget will address this, though until we have a state budget, we must plan for the worst possible scenario. There are additional teacher positions in this request that help address the continuous growth. Without them, already crowded classes will increase, courses will have to be eliminated and programs trimmed.
The final driver and the most important one is making sure that the resources for student success are in place. Over the last several years, the state has significantly decreased funding for classroom resources and support. We continue to ask teachers to do more with less, but we believe it is critical to provide an appropriate level of resources and support to allow them to provide the services to students at the level our students need and deserve. This increase in funding would allow us to strengthen classroom support through increased instructional resources, professional development, administrative and mental health support.
In addition, we have included a 1% supplement increase for veteran teachers (26+ years), because this group of hardworking and loyal teachers has been ignored by the revised State Teacher Pay Scale. We are also requesting increased funding for custodial services, which were significantly reduced over the last several years to protect the classroom. Currently, we do not believe we are providing adequate custodial coverage in all buildings. While the detailed operating budget changes exceed our request, we are hopeful that some of these items will be included in the state budget.
We are very appreciative of New Hanover County citizens’ support for the 2014 School Bond Referendum, though additional capital outlay needs exist. We have documented our top priorities for the next two years, which will address several significant needs including:
• A new transportation facility for our Northern Bus Division at the Sidbury Road site. This division was moved from Laney High School in January, freeing up much needed space, but the site will need a new parking lot and building to house staff when we begin using the facility as a swing site for schools being replaced in the bond funding.
• Demolition and site repair for the old Lakeside School building.
• Renovations and repairs at several schools including bathroom renovations, HVAC upgrades, window and carpet replacements, and painting.
• Phase II of system wide classroom computer replacement.
• Furniture, equipment and vehicle replacements.
The capital needs will be funded from multiple revenue sources, including the North Carolina Education Lottery, for allowable renovation and repair projects, the state technology reserve (funded by state fines and forfeitures revenue) and fund balance.
To put this request into perspective, I wanted to provide a brief overview of our current operating budget. The total operating budget is $237,600,000, excluding child nutrition and capital outlay. Our total budget per pupil is $8,870, and the current county per pupil funding is $2,534. The local budget currently funds 15% of our instructional positions, along with an 8% teacher supplement.
Eighty-nine percent (89%) of the school system’s General Fund is funded by County Appropriation and used to fund 631 of our 3,700 positions. A breakdown of the positions is as follows:
• 51% for Salaries and Benefits for locally funded positions (excluding supplements):
-418 Instructional (66%), including teachers and certified instructional support, assistant principals, and teacher assistants.
-213 System wide Support (33%), including technology and maintenance support, custodians, clerical and central administration.
• 13% for Supplemental pay for teachers and school administrators paid by state and local funds.
• 36% for Non-salary line items including:
-Instructional support (23%)
-Administrative support (8%)
-Technology and Operational support (49%)
-Transfer to Charter Schools (7%)
-Transfer to Capital Outlay (13%)
We are so fortunate to live and serve children in a county, whose leaders value the importance of education. Complete 2015-16 NHCS Budget information can be found at this link:
The Operating Budget by source and purpose is shown in the following charts: