The purse strings are very tight in Guilford County government – the tax rate isn’t going up and the pandemic has taken a big bite out of county revenue – and Guilford County Schools are feeling that pinch.
On Thursday, May 21, Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing presented his 2020-2021 budget proposal, which includes the same amount of total funding for the schools as the current budget.
The Guilford County Board of Education had requested a $7.5 million increase in operating expenses and the proposed county budget includes an increase in operating funding of under half of that amount – a $3 million increase from $206,610,398 to $209,610,398. However, that $3 million was found by taking it out of the other pool of money the county provides the schools each year, capital funding for repairs and maintenance.
The schools asked for a $20 million increase in capital funding this year but Lawing pointed out that a property tax rate increase of over 4 cents would be needed to fully fund just that part of the school board’s ask. This Republican-led Board of Commissioners has shown year after year that it’s not interested in increasing taxes at all.
The county funding for capital maintenance and repair projects in the proposed budget is $3,116,528, a decrease of $3 million over the current budget.
In all, the recommended local operating and capital maintenance budget for the Guilford County Schools in fiscal 2020-2021 is $212,726,926, which is the exact same amount to the dollar that the Board of Commissioners approved in the 2019-2020 budget last summer.
Lawing stated in his budget message that the lack of increase was “due to the budgetary restraints from the economic impact of COVID-19.”
According to Lawing’s budget message, the number of students in the school system is projected to be 80,270, which includes 71,331 in Guilford County Schools and 8,939 in charter schools. This recommendation would move Guilford County’s projected per pupil operating allocation from $2,554 to $2,611 each. Though it doesn’t give the schools what they asked for, Lawing’s proposed budget means the county is ranked 6th in local operating school funding among the 10 largest counties in North Carolina and 14th among all of the state’s counties.
All the county’s allotment will be handed to the school system, which then allocates a portion to the county’s charter schools. According to Lawing’s budget message, based on current estimates, the school system can keep about $186 million and the remaining, $23 million and change will be distributed to charter schools.