The members of the Guilford County Board of Education weren’t happy at all with the amount of money Guilford County Manager Mike Halford proposed for Guilford County Schools in his recommended 2024-2025 fiscal county budget.

 It was $47 million shy of what school officials had asked the county for, so, at a Tuesday, June 11 work session in the Old Guilford County Court House, school leaders explained to the commissioners why they needed more money for both ongoing operations and school maintenance.

Just last week, in a lengthy public hearing, school staff, students and school advocates made the case passionately to commissioners that the county’s school system needs more money – however, the cozier, more relaxed June 11 work session allowed school leaders their chance to make a final plea to the commissioners in an afternoon work session.

Usually, the school officials spend this final school/commissioner work session each year making their case for more money for school operations – and they did that this year too. They spoke of a need to increase salaries to retain teachers and also a need for more pay for “classified workers” such as bus drivers, cafeteria staff and janitors, among other operations’ needs.

However, this year, in the June 11 work session, school leaders spent most of the time focused on the amount of money Halford had put in his recommended budget for school maintenance.

School staff in the room were asking essentially the same question that some speakers at the public hearing asked the commissioners the previous week:  How can you expect $2.5 million to cover the repairs and maintenance for an entire year for a school system that has over 120 schools?

It was a good question, but the commissioners in the Carolyn Coleman Conference Room in the old court house felt like they had a pretty good answer.

Several commissioners, including Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, responded to school leaders in this way: Well, you do have access now to $2 billion for capital projects and repairs – so do you really need the $6 million or $7 million for maintenance in the budgets that the Board of Commissioners has approved in previous years?

 In other words, shouldn’t the flood of money available for large repair jobs mean that you can get by with a little less for the smaller repairs – since there will be fewer of those small jobs?

The commissioners pointed out that, right now, the schools have ready access to about $500 million in funds that the Board of Commissioners can and will approve for projects.

Alston said that, in previous years, the schools didn’t have access to that giant pile of money to be used to improve school buildings.

“During those years,” Alston said, “we didn’t have $500 million set aside for larger projects.”

Alston told the school administrators and school board members in the room that the $2.5 million number in the proposed budget was arrived at knowing that much of the repair issues could be handled with bond money.

School officials maintain that the $2 billion in bond money that county voters have approved will be used to build schools and handle major repair projects – but it cannot be used for things like fixing a plumbing problem or repairing a broken window.

Alston also said that, with all that money available for school projects, there is less need for money to handle small jobs.

“Now we don’t have to use a band-aid,” he said.

Alston asked, “Why has only $48 million of that bond money been used in a year and a half? Where is the urgency there? Why can’t we do it a lot faster? “Then that 2.5 million might be enough for the band-aid issues. There’s $500 million to extend right now; why can’t we go ahead and do that?  Put the ball in our court, and we will say, ‘This is urgent.’  Don’t say, ‘Well, they may not be able to afford it.”

Alston concluded: “Let the community know we’re not trying to slight you.”