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Superintendent Presents Budget Recommendation for 2021-22

April 20, 2021 – Reopening schools for all students, accelerating student learning and increasing teacher and staff pay top the list of priorities identified by Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras in her proposed 2021-22 district budget.  

The superintendent recommended an operating budget of $742,817,282 and a total budget of $807,342, 432, which includes capital expenses and enterprise funds such as school nutrition. The proposed budget includes a $25 million increase in local operating funds and $10 million in local funding for capital outlay.  

Per state statutes, GCS and other school districts must ask county commissioners for local funding allocations each year. If approved, the superintendent’s recommended budget would increase county funding to $238,213,822, excluding capital outlay. In North Carolina, county governments are responsible for funding school districts’ capital needs.  

“This past school year has truly been one like no other,” says Contreras in her letter to board members. “Despite the significant changes wrought by the pandemic, Guilford County Schools has persevered. Now, as we plan for the 2021-22 school year, we must forthrightly address the challenges we face with evidence-based strategies and innovative programming that will begin the long journey of academic, social and emotional recovery.” 

With decades of research indicating that highly effective teachers and principals have the biggest impact on student learning, the superintendent recommended making local pay supplements more competitive. 

Since 2015-2016, GCS has increased its local supplement for teachers by just an average of $36.20 per year or 3.8%. As a result, educator pay in GCS is losing ground in terms of teacher recruitment and retention. This year, GCS’ average teacher supplement is $4,927 as compared to $5,614 in Winston-Salem Forsyth County, $7,375 in Durham County, $8,873 in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County and $8,873 in Wake County. 

“We have to increase our local teacher and principal pay supplements in order to compete with other districts across the state and nationally,” said Contreras. Contreras proposed a five-year plan that would cost $13.25 million in year one. 

The superintendent’s proposed budget also includes $3.6 million to offset an anticipated state pay increase of 3% for locally paid educators and a 2% pay increase for locally paid support staff as well as retirement and health insurance rate increases.  

County commissioners are also being asked to maintain the $15 per hour minimum for school bus drivers they approved two years ago but have not fully funded. The proposed budget also would establish a $15 per hour minimum for child nutrition workers. These two items total $3.5 million. 

Charter school enrollment growth is expected to cost $3.2 million more next year, for a total impact of $25.7 million annually. The district is also asking county commissioners for $1.4 million to restore one-time funding cuts made in the wake of the pandemic last year. These funds would be used to add back the 20 instructional days of school cut this year from Allen Jay Prep Academy, Brooks Global and Johnston Street Global magnet schools. 

In addition, the recommendation calls for $10 million in capital outlay funds, which would be used to address deferred maintenance projects outside of any school bond-related projects. 

The superintendent also updated the board about the impact the pandemic has had on student learning and briefly outlined her priorities for spending any economic recovery funds the district receives.  

GCS expects to receive more than $286.8 million in federal funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) Act. The one-time funding allotment includes $88.6 million to be spent by September 30, 2023, and $198.2 million to be spent by September 30, 2024.   

“Braiding together the various sources of funding for GCS and leveraging our resources to maximize student success represents complex – and important – work,” said Contreras. “Budgets reflect a school district’s priorities and serve as the most important policy statement a school board can make.”  

The Guilford County Board of Education will hold a budget hearing and formalize its request to the Board of County Commissioners on May 11. The county is expected to hold its public hearing on June 3 and adopt a budget on June 17. Local funding accounts for slightly more than 32% of GCS total operating budget.  

State allocations – which represent 60.5% of GCS’ overall budget – will not be finalized until the state legislature adopts a budget. While the district expects to receive more federal stimulus dollars, federal funding currently makes up just 7.4% of the district’s operating budget.