Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who will be renamed to that top position for another year later this week, is already thinking hard about 2024.
One thing he’s focused on is finding ways to convince the leaders of the cities of Greensboro and High Point, as well as the county’s towns, to help pay for the enormous cost of running Guilford County Schools.
Alston first brought up the idea six months ago to break the ice, and now – as he’s putting together his agenda for 2024 – he said that would be an area of focus.
Alston said the cities and towns benefit from quality schools and he added that the school system’s needs have been outgrowing Guilford County’s ability to fund them.
He said he understands that school funding has traditionally been handled by the county, not the cities, but added that, in recent years, Guilford County government has been helping the cities with services that have always been outside the purview of the county.
“The county didn’t used to be directly involved with homelessness,” he said, adding that, now, Guilford County is intimately involved in that challenge and has given both Greensboro and High Point a lot of funding towards projects in those cities to address homelessness.
The chairman said the county is helping out the cities with other services as well.
“And I know the people in the cities pay county taxes too,” he said.
One major objection from municipal leaders is that the residents who live in cities and towns already help fund the schools through the county taxes they pay.
Alston said the county is already straining hard to do all it can for the schools.
“About 47 percent of our budget goes to the schools for operations and school debt payment, and we are giving them over $300 million a year for operations, but the schools need more,” he said.
Earlier in the year, Alston suggested that Greensboro and High Point could each provide the county “$5 million or $6 million” every year for the schools, and he said the towns could give something as well.
Alston said this week that he had spoken with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan regarding the idea and he said that the mayor didn’t jump at the idea.
“I don’t think she’s in favor of it and I didn’t expect her to be,” he said. “I didn’t expect her to be jumping up and down saying the city is eager to give the county money.”
He also said, however, that that could change if the commissioners appeal to the city residents to support the move.
He said the extra funding could help raise teacher pay and increase the pay of the lowest-paid school employees, and he noted that those are very popular causes.
Earlier this year, Alston encouraged school officials and other members of the public to put more pressure on state legislators as well to give more money to school systems.