Board of Education Approves Budget Request

The Guilford County Board of Education approved a $189.2 million budget request for local funding at its May 14 meeting. That request will go to the Guilford County manager today, May 15, in keeping with state statutes.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. Commissioners are required by state statute to vote on the school budget on or before July 1. By law, the county must approve the school budget on or before July 1.

GCS depends on the county to provide more than 30 percent of its budget. The district is seeking $13.6 million more in operating funds from Guilford County Commissioners. The increase would pay for district operations, a salary increase for employees, and lowering class size. The district is also requesting $10 million in county money to maintain and upgrade school buildings.

"In order to support our students and our staff, who lay it on the line every day, I think we have to ask for increased funding from county commissioners," said Board Chair Alan Duncan. "We have to be advocates for our students and our families."

Over the past few years, funding from county commissioners has essentially remained flat, while district expenses, including the number of students and number of buildings GCS manages, have risen significantly. GCS also has faced other funding cuts, including a loss of more than $43 million in state dollars since 2008. Funding for certain positions, textbooks, instructional materials, professional development and technology have all been cut by the state in recent years.

"It's time," said GCS Superintendent Maurice "Mo" Green. "After five years of cutting resources, and after five years of doing more with less, I believe it is time to seek adequate funding to support our students."

The superintendent presented his recommended budget to the Board of Education in March; the Board approved his recommendation without making any changes. The district's total operating budget of $629,085,238 includes $13.2 million in reductions and redirections. Many of those will have a direct impact on schools and classrooms, such as increasing class sizes; eliminating $2 million in funding for summer school, after-school tutoring and other academic-intervention programs; central office reductions of $1.8 million; redirecting mentor pay for teachers who support new educators, and eliminating some school-based literacy facilitator positions.

The GCS total proposed 2013-14 budget is $705,827,043, which includes capital outlay funds, special revenue funds (which pay for pre-k programs), and enterprise funds, which include child nutrition and afterschool care enrichment services. GCS spends 85 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits.

GCS is projecting federal funding to be nearly $43.5 million and $389,286,993 from the state, but will not have final numbers until the state budget passes sometime in the next few months. Governor Pat McCrory's proposed budget, for example, eliminates more than $117 million for teacher assistants in second and third grade, including $6.2 million from GCS. If Governor McCrory's budget is adopted by the state, the district would need to find another estimated $5.2 million in cuts.

"We would not be able to cut this deep without cutting people and positions," said Green. "This is a serious situation, one that threatens our ability to serve our children well."