Schools requesting $5.8 million local funding increase

A proposed school system budget for the upcoming fiscal year was introduced during the Mecklenburg County School Board meeting on Monday night. Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols reviewed the budget proposal, which includes a request for a $5.8 million local funding increase over last year’s budget.
The requested increase would help fund a 5 percent salary increase for school system employees “across the board,” in addition to an increase in other areas such as maintenance as well as covering certain unfunded mandates.
The budget in its entirety calls for nearly $52 million altogether, with just under $20 million (or 39 percent) in local contributions.
Nichols pointed out the budget does not reflect any allotment for new secondary facilities, only funds for maintenance and upkeep of the existing facilities.
“Nothing in this budget reflects new buildings,” he said.
He also said one of the goals of this year’s budget is to be “fully transparent” and listed a few “focus” items, including employee morale and competitive salaries, high quality personnel retention and recruitment, school improvement and accreditation, professional development, increased Career and Technical Education (CTE) experiences, facilities maintenance and others.
Some of the expenditure highlights also refer to maintenance, specifically, “A significant increase in the operations and maintenance category,” which includes custodial services. Professional development and additional personnel were also listed as vital or priority expenditure items.
Nichols later said he is requesting additional personnel regarding the growing ESL (English as a Second Language) population.
In regard to the proposed salary increases, Nichols pointed out that Mecklenburg County offers “the lowest salaries in the region and the second lowest salaries in the state.”
“It’s hard to compete with that,” he said, also pointing out that better employee benefits are included in the budget proposal along with salary increases.
He said the salary increases would affect all employees including bus drivers, nurses, teaching staff and administration, etc.
Breaking down the budget’s revenue sources, it outlines receiving 49 percent of operating funds from the state, 6 percent from federal funds, 1 percent from textbook funds, 4 percent from school food funding, 1 percent from other sources, and the 39 percent in local funding.
Breaking down the operating expenditures, the proposed budget outlines 73 percent of funding allocated to instruction, 9 percent allocated to student transportation, 8 percent to operations and maintenance, 6 percent to technology and 4 percent to administration.
Further information regarding the proposed budget will be reviewed at a special meeting that will be held on Feb. 27. A public hearing on the proposed budget will take place at that meeting.