The two local school districts presented their 2015-16 budget requests to the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
The commissioners will take this information and decide how much money to allocate to each district. The county projects it will have about $94 million, about half of the county’s general fund revenues, to fund both school systems.
As compared to last year, Orange County Schools requested $81 more per pupil and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools requested an additional $302 per pupil.
Commissioners Board Chair Earl McKee said the “per pupil” dollars must be the same for both school systems, and an additional $302 per pupil would require a 3.5 cent property tax increase.
“Three and a half on top of the two cents last year is a fairly significant tax increase in a two-year span,” said McKee. “Our citizens, particularly those who have not had wage increases themselves over the last few years, are going to be impacted by that fairly heavily, particularly those that are on fixed incomes.”
Orange County Schools is requesting a county appropriation of $28 million. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools is requesting an appropriation of $47.5 million in county funds. A significant chunk of the projected revenue for Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, $22 million, would come from a special district tax.
The state projects Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools will have 150 fewer students in 2015-16, and Orange County public schools will have 170 fewer students.
“Do you have any sense on why the enrollment is declining?” Commissioner Mark Dorosin asked Del Burns, Interim Superintendent of Orange County Schools.
“The opening of a new charter school last year did have impact,” said Burns. “Orange County Schools lost about 125 students to that charter.”
The county commissioners will hold a 7pm budget work session on May 14 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough.
The boards also discussed next year’s $125 million bond referendum to repair and renovate school buildings. On April 21, the commissioners voted to focus the bond package solely on repairing school buildings.
Orange County Schools Estimated Student Population: 7526
Orange County Schools County Funding Request: $3652 per pupil
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools Estimated Student Population: 12,203
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools County Funding Request: $3873 per pupil
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board is including a higher minimum wage for school employees in its 2015/16 budget request to Orange County.
The proposed budget would set a wage floor for CHCCS employees of $12.76 per hour, which is the current minimum wage for Orange County government employees.
Board member James Barrett wants to do more than include minimum wage in the budget.
“Are we going to bring living wage back as a separate policy?” Barrett asked at Thursday’s board meeting. “There are dollars in the budget, but is that going to be a policy discussion as well?”
Barrett said creating a living wage policy would ensure that future boards consider this topic as they discuss budgets. He said the policy could incorporate inflation into the minimum wage calculation.
Board Chair Mike Kelley said that the board could discuss that in the future, but no date has been set for this policy discussion.
Kelley also brought up something commissioners are considering in county living wage policy.
“Contractors: How do you handle them? Can you require them to pay a living wage? Can you favor them in some way? So I agree, there are policy decisions to be made,” said Kelley.
The board approved the budget request 6-1, with James Barrett dissenting, in part because the budget asks the county to pay for additional charter school students. He said this is not a strategic move because the commissioners have to divide money between the two school districts, and the Orange County Schools’ charter school population is underrepresented.
The school board will now submit the budget to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. And on April 28 the CHCCS Board and the Orange County Schools Board will each present budget requests to the commissioners.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools seeks funds from Orange County every year to pay for costly repairs and maintenance. At Thursday’s school board meeting, school officials talked about making difficult choices with finite funds from the county.
“We know we’re pushing back critical needs further and further. You guys remember we had the heat issue at Estes Hills,” said Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese. “We pushed off replacing the boiler 10 years in our plan, and it came back and bit us and we had problems last year at Estes.”
At the meeting, the board approved a capital investment plan that lists major projects, estimated at $15.9 million over the next five years. These costs align with the county’s projected funds for the school district. But the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district may not recieve all the money it wants.
“We’ve had a terrible, terrible last six or seven years,” said School Facilities Director William Mullin. “You’ll remember over the last decade we’ve added three schools, mobile classrooms and additions. We grow and our capital plan is being badly, badly hurt.”
Orange County Commissioners will divide 2015-16 funds between Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in the summer.
Among other projects, in 2015-16 CHCCS officials want a cooling tower replacement, light fixture replacements and classroom upgrades.
CHCCS board members also hope commissioners will put a $125 million bond on the ballot in 2016 to pay for additional expenses. The proposed bond would be the largest in Orange County history and would add an estimated 4.67 cents on the property tax rate.
“We’re making some choices right now in what our priorities are based on the expectation that this is going to happen,” said Board Member Michelle Brownstein on planning for the bond.
The district would like the extra funds to help pay for new buildings and school expansions to meet increases in student enrollment at an estimated cost of $214 million over ten years. The funds would also help pay the estimated $91 million in other maintenance costs over the next ten years.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-board-approves-10-year-plan-school-repair-maintenance/
The number of public school students in North Carolina has increased by more than 48,000 since 2007-08, yet the state funding level for public schools has decreased by $100 million. That’s according to last year’s report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
On Tuesday night at North Carolina Central University, a panel of superintendents from four area school districts discussed how changes in the state education budget impact their districts.
Tom Forcella, superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the recent economic recession impacted state education budgets across the country. But, he said, other states have renewed their support for public education.
“There doesn’t seem to be the will on the part of our state leaders to really turn this around,” said Forcella. “I think that if we had that will and that desire, and the people of North Carolina really voiced their concerns, I think we can turn this around.”
In 2012-13, the sources of funding for North Carolina public schools were:
“Orange County provides the highest per pupil appropriations in the state of North Carolina,” said Del Burns, Orange County interim superintendent.
A study from the nonpartisan Public School Forum of North Carolina shows that Orange County leads spending in the state with $4,100 per pupil in 2012-13.
Local chapters of the League of Women Voters sponsored the event, and Wynetta Lee, Dean of the School of Education at NCCU, moderated the discussion with the four superintendents:
Del Burns, Orange County interim superintendent;
Tom Forcella, Chapel Hill-Carrboro superintendent;
Derrick Jordan, Chatham superintendent and
Bert L’Homme, Durham superintendent.
In addition to discussing the state’s role in funding public education, the panel discussed technology in schools and how charter schools are impacting public school funding.
Charter schools are exempt from regulations traditional public schools must follow; charters don’t have to provide transportation or meals for students. Critics say charter schools, which receive public funds, draw resources away from traditional public schools.
“Folks leave us for a reason,” said Burns. “Sometimes they’re running to something. Sometimes they’re running from something. And I don’t believe charter schools will go away. The question of Orange County Schools now is, ‘What would it take for Orange County Schools to be the first choice for families in Orange County?’”http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/school-superintendents-talk-state-budget-cuts-public-schools/
In Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, an African American student is five times as likely as a white student to get in-school suspension, five times as likely to get out-of-school suspension, and three times as likely to get sent to the office. That’s according to an official school district report that looks at discipline data over the past two academic years.
At Thursday night’s meeting, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board member Jamezetta Bedford said we have to be careful in interpreting this data.
“All that shows you is that the risk for ISS (in-school suspension) discipline reaction is five to one,” said Bedford. “You can’t assume the child deserved it and did those actions.” She said some teachers and administrators may discriminate in whom they choose to discipline.
White students make up about half the district’s student population, and black students are 11 percent of the population. According to the report, Latino students, who make up 14 percent of the student population, are also disproportionately disciplined.
Aggression, defiance and disruption rank as the most common infractions among all students. The report says the largest disparities between white students and black students are in vaguely worded infractions, like disrespect.
“Disrespect was one of the hardest things for teachers to define,” said Nancy Kueffer, the school district’s behavior support coordinator. “So we’ve decided that we don’t want that on our office discipline referral form.”
Kueffer said the district needs to update policies and rewrite the code of conduct to clearly define infractions. She said the district should also help teachers think about the function of students’ misbehavior. This can help the teachers see behavior patterns and respond based on those patterns.
Board member Annetta Streater worries that seeing this data could strengthen stereotypes and cause teachers and administrators to racially profile students.
“I am concerned about this information – for it to be shared with some authority figures, administrators or whomever,” said Streater. “It definitely gives an idea based on comparing demographic groups.”
“It can be thought of that way or it can be thought of that the school is not meeting the needs of those students,” said Kueffer in response. “If we don’t have the data there, we can’t have that discussion . . . ‘Well why is that happening there? And why would it be any different for any kid of color?’”http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/report-chccs-discipline-disproportionately-impacts-minority-students/
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board chose its new member on Thursday from a pool of fourteen applicants. At the meeting in Chapel Hill, board members used an updated two step voting process to make their pick, David Saussy.
“Be it therefore resolved that the board of education approves the appointment of David Saussy as a board member for a one-year term,” said board member Jamezetta Bedford.
“I’m a parent of two children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system,” said Saussy in an interview after the meeting. “Both attend Glenwood Elementary School, a 5th grader and a 3rd grader.”
Saussy holds a PhD in pharmacology and works for GlaxoSmithKline in corporate development. In his application for the position, he wrote that his training as a scientist gives him an understanding of “rigorous data collection and analysis.”
“I will contribute a desire to improve communication with the community, and a desire to ensure that everything is analyzed from every angle possible,” said Saussy in the interview. “I’ve spent a lot of time recently as a member of the Glenwood SIT (School Improvement Team) advocating for Glenwood School as it has gone through challenges with overcrowding and redistricting, and trying to make sure we come up with solutions that are the best solution for the school and . . . the best we can do for the district as a whole.”
The vacancy came because Mia Burroughs left the school board to join the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
The board voted in Mike Kelley to replace Jamezetta Bedford as the chair. And the board chose Andrew Davidson to replace Mia Burroughs as the vice chair.
Also, during the public comment period Mark Dorosin, a civil rights lawyer and Orange County commissioner, urged the board to pass a resolution supporting the rights of undocumented immigrant children. Some North Carolina counties have adopted resolutions discouraging these children from attending public schools. But denying admission to students because of immigration status runs contrary to the state constitution and the U.S. constitution.
Bedford and other members said they want to make it known that this district welcomes immigrant students. The board will continue discussions on how best to communicate this message.
The Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Alderman and the Orange County Board of Commissioners recently passed resolutions supporting the rights of immigrant children.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-carrboro-city-schools-board-selects-new-member/
Northside Elementary School has received Platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, with the Green Building Certification Institute for the school’s design focused on efficiency and sustainability. It now stands as the first elementary school in North Carolina to be certified LEED Platinum.
Before opening its doors in the fall of 2013, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools worked alongside Moseley Architects to create a school that was capable of supporting 585 students. Where the school now stands was once the grounds of the Orange County Training School, meaning that the site has been a place of education since 1924. A display within the school shows a visual timeline to represent the history of the area, as well as the large case of the original cornerstone of the school.
The design of Northside is built around the concept of sustainability. With this in mind, the design team and the school district cooperated to surpass their own expectations, yet remained on budget and on time for completion.
The school building incorporates signs that describe the sustainability brief descriptions of several sustainable design features utilized at Northside. The signs point to the Building Dashboard, which contains further information about these sustainable features. The teachers of Northside even incorporate these features into customized lesson plans and projects.
The managing principal for the project for Mosely Architects, Jim Copeland, said in a press release that he is proud of what they and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools have accomplished in the formation of Northside Elementary.
For more information about Northside Elementary School, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/northside-elementary-awarded-leed-platinum-certification/
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. This finance award certificate is considered to be the highest form of recognition for reporting accurate financial information and governmental accounting.
Assistant Superintendent for Support Services for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System, Todd LoFrese, explains what the award is all about and what it means for the Board of Education.
“The award is recognition for a comprehensive annual financial report, which shows all of the financial information that occurred during the fiscal year,” says LoFrese. “Each year, we produce this report along with an audit, submit that to Government Finance Officers Association, the North Carolina School Board Association, and the State of North Carolina, and it’s reviewed for its accuracy, transparency, and the breadth of the report. They then determine we meet and exceed expectations, and again this year we have.”
LoFrese says that Pittman and her team are deserving of this award as they have proven once again their adept ability to clearly and accurately report their budget.
“For as long as I’ve been here, and before I arrived, Ruby Pittman and her team have annually been receiving recognition for excellence in financial reporting,” says LoFrese. “Once again this year, her department received that recognition, and it’s a testament to their hard work and their focus on making sure our finances and books are in order, and public transparency with our financial reporting.”http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/chapel-hill-board-education-receives-finance-award/
Depending of which version of the state budget wins favor in the General Assembly in the coming days, Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools could be facing between $850,000 and $3 million dollars worth of budget cuts.
The school board held a special meeting on Tuesday to review options for dealing with those cuts. Elected leaders said the focus should be protecting the student experience in the classroom.
“Right now we’re trying to preserve the core education for our kids,” said board member Michelle Brownstein.
All agreed the House plan, which maintains funding for teaching assistants and includes a 5 percent pay raise for teachers, is the best case scenario. Still, it would require $850,000 worth of local budget cuts, including the loss of 4.5 gifted education specialist positions.
A second round of cuts could be necessary if the General Assembly adopts a budget similar to the Senate’s spending plan.
That could include eliminating the district’s service learning coordinator, cutting media assistants to part-time, losing three and a half more gifted education positions, and shifting some custodial staff to lower-paid contract work.
While all that would trim nearly $1 million dollars, officials acknowledge that’s not enough to account for the shortfall in the Senate’s budget proposal, which calls for an 11 percent pay raise while slashing funding for teaching assistants.
Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the board hiring for 80 teaching assistant positions is on hold until the state’s final budget is approved.
“We’ve been preparing for this for over a year, and so the teaching assistants that were hired all throughout last year were placed on interim contracts, and while we’d like to hire them back, we’re not going to do so until we have clarity,” said LoFrese.
School board officials hope to sign off on the budget July 17, but they say another emergency meeting could be needed if the legislature unveils any last minute surprises.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-schools-limbo-awaiting-state-budget/
Movoto.com has ranked Chapel Hill as the #1 small city in the nation for education.
Executive Director of Community Relations for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Jeff Nash, says that Chapel Hill deserves this recognition because of all the people that make it happen.
“The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are fortunate to be in a very ‘edu-friendly’ community,” says Nash. “Not only the teachers and the school personnel, who do a wonderful job every day working with our children, but it’s also a lot of other groups, including elected officials, like our school board and our county commissioners who are a very big part of the success of the school district. Also, the parents and the community in general always work hard to ensure that we sustain the success of our schools. We’re very fortunate to be in this community, and we look forward to many, many more years of even greater success.”
Nash says he believes that in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community, education comes first.
“The community makes education the top priority,” says Nash. “You see it in the county commissioners to fund the schools at a level higher than many other school districts. You see it in local taxpayers, who are willing to be taxed at a higher rate for the sake of excellent schools. You see it in educators who really want to be here and want to work in our district. You see it in students who have goals, and they work hard to attain those. You see it in parents as they make sure students are prepared and ready for school each day, they come in and volunteer, they help out with school, they support their teachers and principals. So, it’s really a team effort.”http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/chapel-hill-ranked-1-small-city-education/