3/2/2020 7:33:00 AM Commissioners, School Board Talk Budget
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Commissioners listened intently last Thursday (Feb. 27th) as Dr. Lory Morrow, Superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, presented the proposed Schools Budget for fiscal 2021. They had already heard that the Schools were asking for a four million dollar increase in current expense funding from this year.
Dr. Morrow's presentation outlined the specifics behind the increase request: $3,566,724 for the Schools' current expense budget; $800,000 for capital outlay--half of that to improve the heating & air conditioning systems and replace worn & outdated equipment, half of it to purchase Chromebooks and presentation devices for schools instructional technology.
The Schools want 35 new positions: four of those for lead ACT/CCRG/C&I lead teachers (ACT--the college entrance exam that has largely replaced the SAT; CCRG--Career & College Ready program; C&I--curriculum & instruction specialists); two for high school guidance counselors; one for a technology & media facilitator; one additional AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted) teacher; one English as a Second Language teacher. In addition to those teaching positions, the Schools want three behavioral support technicians, four more teachers' assistants to work with exceptional children (those with learning difficulties). They're also asking for one new HVAC position plus another custodial position and additional funds for clerical help.
Since teacher pay from the state is going up an average of 5%, the County's cost for supplements (based on a percentage) will also increase. The cost of other benefits--like retirement and health insurance is also going up, and the Schools expect utility costs to increase by 3%.
The proposal also asks for additional supplements for coaches and arts program staff.
In addition to $1.7 million for capital improvement projects--paving, roofing, HVAC, painting, etc., the Schools are asking for an additional $774,000 to establish and fund a yearly repair & maintenance program.
At last Tuesday's Lincoln Herald Candidates Forum, Cathy Davis, a candidate for County Commissioner in Tuesday's Primary and currently chair of the School Board, explained that the Schools don't really expect to get all the additional funds requested from the County, "but it's a starting point. We (the School Board) asked Dr. Morrow to get the information needed from our administrators, principals, teachers and other personnel and to present us with a budget that would fund what we really need. We know that Commissioners have other things they'll have to fund, and we won't get all ot it--not that it's not needed--but when they tell us what they can provide, we'll go back and priortize based on the funds available."
Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem defended the Schools at the Forum, "their (current expense) budget in 2010 was $17 million. This year it's $19 million. I don't think $2 million increase in 10 years is excessive."
At Thursday's joint meeting, Commissioner Milton Sigmon expressed a word of caution: "We already know we've got lots of other increased expenses coming up for next year. We'll do what we can, but we also have to fund the Sheriff's Office, Emergency Services, and other County departments."
Commissioner Rich Permenter told us after the meeting, "Education has to be a priority. Of all the things we fund, it's the one with the most long-lasting effect."
Thursday's meeting was--as are all Board of Education and County Commission meetings--open to the public. The public will have a chance to comment on the budget when Commissioners hold a public hearing in June. The 2021 County Budget must be approved by July 1st.
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