Schools Request Increased Budget From Orange County

The North Carolina Legislature has received a lot of criticism for its cuts to public education, adding pressure to the local government’s efforts to support its schools.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro city school board has requested $3.8 million in local money, including $750,000 more in renovations.

If the county manager does not meet their budget request, CHCCS will have a $2.7 million shortfall, leading to “first round proposed reductions” in gifted specialists positions and central office staff members.

An additional two million in cuts affects the students more directly, through reductions in media assistance in schools, high school theatre classes, elementary teacher assistants and more gifted specialists.

Jeff Hall, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA council, says it is important for the commissioners to pick up the slack in funding caused by changes in the state budget, a job that needs to be done quickly and creatively.

“I have a third grader who is identified as gifted,” Hall said. I don’t want to see her lose a gifted specialist in her school that will meet her needs and help her develop as a child. There is nothing on this list (of cuts) that is okay.”

Governor Pat McCrory’s new $21 billion proposed budget includes $263 million towards increasing teachers pay in upcoming years, an amount many educators, like Culbreth Middle School teacher, Chuck Hennessee, find unrealistic.

“In a Republican legislature who has thus far not worked with (McCrory), they are not going to approve more taxes in order to get the budget that they need,” Hennessee said. “Is (McCrory) truly ignorant of what the real state of education in our state is?”

With many North Carolina teachers working multiple jobs and applying for public assistance, it is a clear indication of a lack in public education, even here in Orange County.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said he fears the repercussions of that lack.

“Not meeting this funding request is going to have a direct impact on classroom and services provided to kids.”

The board of County Commissioners proposed budget includes a total $92.3 million in school spending, a $3 million increase in last year’s amount. The board will have to balance this delicate weight in order to best fund both districts, even with the budget increases. The Orange County school board is requesting $1.96 million more from the commissioners, a 5.7 percent increase.

“I believe in the (Orange County Commissioners) ability to find a way to fully fund both Orange County schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools for the upcoming year and we need them to do that now more than ever,” Hall said.

County commissioners will host two public hearings on the budget on May 22 and 29. The final budget will be adopted by June 17.

CHCCS Facing Tough Decisions With Projected Budget Shortfalls

CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has to make some tough decisions coming up. The district faces a $5 million shortfall for this next fiscal year in addition to potential cuts in state funding. The Board met Thursday night to take public comment and also held its own discussion on the superintendent’s recommended budget.

“What we were talking about was if there were opportunities for us to do some cost-savings and looking at us being more cost-efficient with our resources,” said Chair of the Board Michelle Brownstein.

The Board discussed consolidating high school classes that were under-enrolled, even suggesting using telecommunication teaching methods between schools. The Board also addressed the cost and effectiveness of virtual or online classes.

Public comments included one speaker who said “we will have your back” in regards to the Board trying to keep class sizes down. Another speaker voiced her concern on the lack of teaching assistants in elementary classes. Released Wednesday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s proposed budget caused a stir in the education community. It’s estimated about 1,800 full-time teachers will be hired over the next two years. However, the trade-off is cutting teaching assistants.

“It’s kind of a shape-shifting of sorts where the PR on it is that they are adding teachers but really all they are doing is adding the teachers they are required to add because of increased enrollment,” Brownstein said.

Teaching assistants’ salaries are primarily state-funded except for some funding from the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

“We really need input in particular from the elementary community because it looks like state funding may be lost for teachers’ assistants at all level except for the kindergarten and first-grade level,” Brownstein said.

Brownstein said the Board is still finalizing the numbers but will likely request an additional; $422 per student in funding from the county to cover the loss of federal funds and the cost of opening the new Northside Elementary.