Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras got one final chance to make her case for more county funding for the schools at a Monday afternoon, June 10 Board of Commissioners work session.
At the meeting, Contreras was joined by Angie Henry, the school system’s chief financial officer, in a tag-team presentation to make the case that the schools need $10 million more operating funds from Guilford County. Guilford County Manager Mary Lawing, in his proposed budget, calls for the county to give the schools $4 million over what the county provided the school system in fiscal 2018-2019.
That new money that the schools say they need is over and above the current funding the county provides the schools for operations – which is $202 million in the current fiscal year. When school debt repayment and money for facilities is factored in, about 45 percent of Guilford County’s proposed $627-million budget goes to the school system, which is by far the single biggest expense the county has.
School officials are requesting $12 million in funding for building maintenance and repair as well, and Lawing’s budget only proposes to provide $6 million in those capital dollars.
Contreras told the board the school system had many operational needs and said a pay increase for bus drivers was badly needed, adding that the schools usually have 35 to 50 bus driver vacancies because those drivers haven’t had a raise in years.
The two school officials also said that current spending levels don’t allow the county to keep pace in North Carolina in terms of per-pupil school funding. Guilford County is now 14th in the state in per-pupil funding and, based on what other counties are expected to provide to their school systems this year, Guilford County is expected to fall in that ranking, they told the board.
“We’re seeing that other counties are offering significant increases in school funding,” Henry said,
Contreras said that, on average, the amount the schools are requesting would mean about $400 more a year for teachers in the system.
She also said that some of the new requested money, if provided, would be used for training new teachers. She cited at study that showed that well-trained teachers result in a greater percentage of kids going to college and succeeding in other ways.