This time of year, late June, is the time of year when, usually, Guilford County Schools officials are incredibly angry with the Guilford County commissioners.
However, this year, that’s not the case. Most school officials, along with many school advocates, seem genuinely pleased with the amount of money the Guilford County Board of Commissioners provided the school system for fiscal 2021-2022 in the just-adopted county budget.
The new Guilford County budget includes a total operating and capital allocation of $229.6 million for Guilford County Schools. The budget proposed in May by Guilford County Manager Mike Halford increased the amount of money for the schools by about $13.5 million from the 2020-2021 budget – a record yearly bump for this century. And, before the county commissioners passed the budget, they tacked on another $3.5 million on top of Halford’s recommendation. The total was still roughly $9 million less than the school board requested, but a strong increase nevertheless.
This new funding is intended to cover increases in teacher pay and allow a $15 minimum pay rate for school nutrition workers.
After the budget was passed, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras and Angie Henry, the chief of finance and operations for the school system, were interviewed on Fox 8 News. Both women were laughing and in good spirits and, when talking about the new funding decision, Contreras said she was very grateful to the current Board of Commissioners.
She did add, “We have a long way to go; this is many years of underfunding.”
In a prepared statement, Contreras also stated. “This is great news for our students, staff and community.”
Board of Education Chair Deena Hayes released this statement: “We are deeply appreciative of the working relationship we have with our colleagues.”
Guilford County School Board Member Pat Tillman told the Rhino Times that he was generally pleased with the amount of funding this year.
There was also the lack of the usual commissioner-bashing on TV and in print by school advocates.
In the last quarter of a century, the schools have often had a different reaction to a new county budget. About a decade ago a group of school officials stormed out of the commissioners’ meeting room as a group after a school funding decision was announced. Over the eight years from 2012 to 2020, the Republican-led board came under constant attack for what school leaders said was a lack of adequate funding. In some years, school supporters have marched in the streets, and, in others, school officials have considered suing the county commissioners to get more money.
But this year everything is copacetic.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston put out the following statement after the new budget was adopted.
“The budget passed Thursday night is balanced and well thought through plan that prioritizes our schools. Through the concerted efforts of both the Board of Education and the County Commissioners to understand each other’s funding needs and priorities, we were able to fund teacher pay, add school nurses and bring school nutrition workers up to a live-able wage, all while continuing to fund school construction debt and the school’s initiatives. By working collaboratively, we all succeed, but most importantly our children succeed.”
Alston added, “On behalf of the Board of County Commissioners I want to thank the Board of Education and the Superintendent for all of their work.”
The county funds about 33 percent of Guilford County Schools’ operating budget. About 60 percent comes from the state and about 7 percent from the federal government.