Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston is calling for the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to give nearly $6 million of county money to Guilford County Schools in the middle of the budget year in order to raise school bus driver pay, address other salary concerns and fund more repairs in the schools.

At the Board of Commissioners Thursday, Nov. 21 meeting, Alston announced he would make the motion at the next meeting in early December.

Alston called for the move right after the commissioners discovered that the county would only be paying about $2.2 million for required new voting machines – though the county had allocated $8 million for that purpose earlier due to the high previous estimates of that cost.

At the Nov. 21 meeting, some speakers from the floor raked the commissioners over the coals for what those speakers claimed is a lack of adequate county funding of the schools in recent years.

In recent weeks, teachers, parents and school board members have been calling attention to low bus driver pay in the system and to heater problems in some classrooms during the onset of cold weather.

Alston said this week that his motion would also include money for raises for other low-paid school system “classified” employees, such as lunchroom workers.

“We should give that money to the schools,” Alston said. “We can’t say we don’t have the money. We had budgeted $8 million, but we only had to spend $2.2 million. So that’s another 5.8 million that we can put into the school system.”

Alston added that recent events – a threat of a bus driver strike and maintenance issues leading to some cold classrooms – make it clear that money is needed by the school system.”

Commissioner Carolyn Coleman also likes the idea.

“I will say amen to that,” she said at the Nov. 21 meeting after Alston proposed the idea.

Commissioner Jeff Phillips said it is a mistake to view “taxpayer money that’s not spent as found money,” as Alston seems to do.  He also reiterated a point made by Commissioner Justin Conrad at the meeting. The State of North Carolina has yet to adopt a 2019-2020 budget, so Guilford County doesn’t even have a clear view of what kind of financial support it’s getting from the state this fiscal year.

“That’s a significant uncertainty,” Phillips said.