At the Thursday, June 1 public hearing on the Guilford County manager’s proposed budget, the entire commissioners meeting room on the second floor of the Old Guilford County Court House was packed to the rafters – because the overflow crowd had to sit in the balcony – and the people were there to ask the commissioners for millions and millions more in funding for Guilford County Schools.

The commissioners didn’t tell them that their requests would be met – and they certainly didn’t tell them that they would get the $101 million in additional money over last year that the school board had requested.

However, the board did make it official that night that the schools will get more money in the budget than the nothing that County Manager Mike Halford had called for in his proposed budget.

All nine commissioners knew that the weren’t going to give the schools $101 million more in additional money for operations over last year’s amount.  However, there was never any question that the schools would get more than proposed.  It just looks a lot better for the commissioners if they let Halford take the heat for a couple of weeks and then the commissioners sweep in and add millions more in funding for the schools.

At the meeting, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston made it official that the schools would get more than the zero increase Halford had recommended.

“We won’t do everything, but we’re going to do something,” Alston told the school advocates at the meeting.

His promise came after bus drivers, mechanics, cafeteria workers and others  had pleaded for more pay.

Alston said of the current Board of Commissioners, “We are your friends.”

He said it slowly and emphatically.

Alston pointed out that the board had put a $1.7 billion school bond referendum on the ballot and helped get it passed.

“We put $50 million aside to pay for debt service,” he told the members of the audience.

“We are your friends,” he repeated.

To add $101 million for the schools would mean a 14.5 cent tax increase in a year when Alston has said categorically that there will be no tax increase.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said, adding that, over the next two weeks, the commissioners would study the school pay situation and do what they could.

“We can’t give it all this year,” the chairman said, but he added that, over a period of years, the board could work hard to get school funding closer to where it should be.

Other commissioners also had kind words for the school employees and gave them hope that at least some additional money would be allocated to the school system in the coming new budget.

Commissioner Frankie Jones – who said he was the son of a school teacher and the grandson of a public school librarian in who also taught shop – said he understood very well what they were saying.

Jones told the numerous speakers, “We have heard you.”

He also thanked the speakers.

Jones said the commissioners had been in discussions with other school officials, “But it was helpful for us to sit here – because we’ve had an opportunity to talk quite a bit, right? – and we’ve had an opportunity to listen for the last hour and a half.”