Local leaders don’t yet know what the final state budget will look like, but they all agree- things are likely to get worse, not better.
“It would be a disaster, I think, to cut $6 million dollars from our budget,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member Mike Kelley. “It would just be a completely different community.”
Kelley and other officials from Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools came before Orange County Commissioners on Thursday to detail how state cuts could adversely impact education.
The proposed senate spending plan will take a bigger bite out of local budgets, costing Orange County Schools an extra $2 million and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools an extra $3.6 million on top of the district’s $2.7 million dollar shortfall.
The plan also calls for increasing teacher pay by cutting teaching assistants. County schools would lose 35 positions, city schools would lose 57.
The state House has not yet released its budget proposal, but with legislators promising to wrap up the short session before school ends next week, county leaders say they’re in a position to make last minute changes to the local budget if necessary. Still, they say they can’t possibly afford to undo all the damage school officials are bracing for.
“We can fill holes but we can’t fill craters,” said Board Chair Barry Jacobs. “So I would be surprised if we can address all of the cuts that y’all have just described.”
Looking ahead, Commissioners, including Penny Rich, said it might be time to revisit the county goals for school funding.
“We keep saying this year is different than every other year, but I think this year is the beginning of what it’s going to be like,” said Rich. “So we do need to change the process, because, perhaps we can put a band-aid on it this year, but what happens in year two, three and four?”
County Commissioners will hold two budget work sessions next week before adopting the 2014-2015 budget on June 17.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/schools-county-limbo-awaiting-ncga-budget/
The Southern Human Services Center was awash in a sea of crimson Thursday night as more than 300 parents and teachers wearing red for education turned out to the budget public hearing to ask Orange County Commissioners to fully fund both school systems.
“We’re tired of seeing our kids’ education become a political chew toy. We’re tired of teachers not making a living wage,” said Jeff Hall, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro PTA Council. “We’re tired of hearing that next year is the year we do something, next year we’ll raise revenue or cut costs, next year we’ll fix old or overcrowded schools. There isn’t ‘next year.’ We’re insisting, we’re demanding, frankly, we’re begging you to fully fund our schools.”
Hall was one of forty speakers who addressed the board before a standing-room-only crowd. Outside the boardroom, the building was filled to capacity, with supporters standing shoulder to shoulder lining the hallways. Still more waited on the lawn after the fire marshal was forced to turn them away.
The county manager’s proposed $195 million dollar budget for 2014-2015 does include more money for Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools than last year, but the plan falls short of what each district requested.
The Orange County school board requested an additional $2.9 million dollars next year, while the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board asked for an additional $3.9 million.
Under the county’s current budget plan, Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools could lose 22 teaching assistants. Kim Talikoff is a fourth grade teacher at Estes Hills Elementary. She told commissioners teaching assistants are vital to the success of her students.
“I will not be able to compensate for what I am about to lose if we don’t act now to fully fund TAs,” said Talikoff. “So I ask you please, provide the funding we need to make our shared objectives possible. Please put TAs in every classroom.”
The recently released state Senate budget proposal also has education supporters on edge, as funding for teaching assistants would be cut in half, resulting in the loss of 57 teaching assistants in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system. Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told commissioners the Senate plan would more than double the district’s budget gap.
“In the current scenario, we would need to make reductions of over six million dollars to balance our budget,” said LoFrese. “We felt that it was important for commissioners to know this, and know that both school districts will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. We reiterate our request for your strong continued support and increased funding.”
To increase school funding, commissioners have the option of raising the countywide property tax rate, raising the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district tax, or dipping into the county’s fund balance. The manager’s plan already calls for $8.5 million worth of fund balance money to balance the budget.
Board Chair Barry Jacobs reminded the crowd that Orange County elected officials have long supported public education. He thanked the parents, teachers and students in the audience for their advocacy.
“Unlike the North Carolina Legislature, we actually want to hear from the public,” said Jacobs, to much applause.
The board will discuss the budget at a work session on Thursday, June 5. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted June 17.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/hundreds-call-bocc-spend-schools/
HILLSBOROUGH – The 3A NCHSAA East Regional No. 1-seeded Orange Panthers held off the No. 16-seeded Chapel Hill Tigers to advance to the 3rd round of the playoffs, 72-63.
The Panthers meet their bitter rivals, the No. 9-seeded Eastern Alamance Eagles, Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Hillsborough.
***Listen to the CHHS at OHS Game***
Click here to read the game recap of this and other second-round games of Chapelboro teams.http://chapelboro.com/high-school-basketball/hs-boys-basketball-orange-72-chapel-hill-63/
HILLSBOROUGH- Even before the start of the filing period, more than a dozen local candidates have declared their intent to run for office in 2014.
Long-time Orange County Commissioner Alice Gordon announced she won’t be seeking re-election, prompting Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Vice-Chair Mia Burroughs to seek the seat representing District 1.
Bingham resident Mark Marcoplos says he’ll challenge incumbent Earl McKee for the District 2 seat representing rural Orange County, and Bonnie Hauser will take on Board Chair Barry Jacobs for the at-large seat.
For the first time in three decades, there’s no incumbent running for Orange County Sheriff. Lindy Pendergrass announced he’ll be retiring after more than thirty years as the county’s top lawman. Already several challengers have put their names forward, including Charles Blackwood, Andy Cagle, Larry Faucette and David Caldwell.
The Orange County School board has four seats up for grabs- that race will be determined in the May primary.
At the same time, the Town of Carrboro will hold a special election to fill the board seat Lydia Lavelle left vacant when she was elected mayor last fall. To date, planning board chair Bethany Chaney is the only candidate to come forward, but others are likely to run.
At the state level, newly-seated House District 50 Representative Graig Meyer will stand for office for the first time, and State Senator Valerie Foushee will be running to keep the seat she was appointed to when Ellie Kinnaird stepped down. House District 56 Representative Verla Insko will be seeking her tenth term.
Last but not least, Superior Court Judges Carl Fox and Allen Baddour are up for re-election, as is District Court Judge Joe Buckner and District Attorney Jim Woodall.
The filing period opens at noon on Monday and runs through the end of the month. The primary election is May 6, the general election is November 4.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/local-candidates-gear-2014-election/
CHAPEL HILL – It seems like school violence keeps happening more frequently in the United States. In an effort to help keep our local schools and students safer, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has commissioned an outside security consultant to review its policies and procedures.
Despite the increased security put in place in schools nationwide in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, an article released this week by the Associated Press found that there has not been a significant reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings.
“When something happens somewhere else, we are thinking about how we would prevent it, or how could we prevent it? [School safety] is always on your mind, especially with more school shootings happening. It is not even just school-based, they are in community places,” said Jeff Reilly, Coordinator of Student Services for CHCCS and Chair of the Superintendent Safety Council.
The AP’s analysis found that there have been at least 11 school shootings this academic year. There have been about 500 school-associated violent deaths in the past 20 years, not accounting for recent shootings at colleges and universities.
“One of the things that we have talked about doing is having some assessments done of the schools and of the district. That is one of the priorities we have had for the past year,” Reilly said.
This month, safety consultant Michael Dorn, of Safe Havens International, and his team are working with CHCCS to improve its crisis preparedness and campus safety. Reilly said the cost for these services is just under $37,000. The group will produce a preliminary report of its findings in about a month.
Safe Havens International worked with Orange County Schools in 2013
“We are going to a have some analysts come through over the next couple of weeks and walk through each of our schools, review of practices, our emergency operations plans, talk with staff and do a survey of each school,” Reilly said.
These efforts are part of the continued work of Superintendent’s Safety Council, which was created last spring. It is a collaboration across the school system and also with the Chapel Hill Police Department and the Carrboro Police Department.
The Council meets regularly with Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton and Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/ch-carrboro-city-schools-work-security-consultant/
* Alamance-Burlington Schools – 3-hour delay
* Orange County Schools- 2-hour delay
Elementary Schools begin 9:55
Middle Schools begin 10:20
High Schools begin 10:45
* Orange Charter School – 2-hour delay
* Person County Schools – 2-hour delayhttp://chapelboro.com/news/weather/winter-weather-school-delays-123-updated-1030-p-m/
NORTH CAROLINA – Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools; Orange County Schools (for students and staff); Chatham County Schools; Wake County Schools; and Alamance-Burlington County Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay on Tuesday, January 7, due to the frigid temperatures moving into the area Monday evening.
St. Thomas More Catholic School in Chapel Hill will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday as well.
Stay with WCHL for area school closing and delay updates.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/tuesday-school-delays-due-cold-temps/
ORANGE COUNTY – Orange County Schools will be operating on a 2-hour delay Tuesday, November 26. District officials made the decision due to the threat of inclement weather and the potential for hazardous driving conditions.
Elementary Schools begin at 9:50
Middle Schools begin at 10:20
High Schools begin at 10:45
Orange Charter and Alamance Burlington schools are also operating on a two-hour delay this morning.
The National Weather Service in Raleigh issued a Winter Weather Advisory for sleet and freezing rain which is in effect until noon Tuesday.
Stay with WCHL for updates on school closings and delays.http://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/orange-county-schools-2-hour-delay-tuesday/
HILLSBOROUGH- Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday signaled they may be willing to shift the focus of a proposed $100 million bond referendum.
In a prior discussion, the board talked about getting voter approval to finance a new jail, and a fifth middle school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system. Those two projects alone total $73 million.
But school board members from both the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County districts say aging schools are badly in need of repair, and fixing those could cost as much as $230 million.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin said he’d like some guarantee from district officials that renovating older schools would increase student capacity, delaying the need for new buildings.
“I think if we’re going to put any money into the renovation of these older schools, which is much needed, I think we should demand that any renovation increase capacity, whether it’s in the middle school or the elementary school,” said Dorosin. “Whatever those plans are, that money should have as an additional benefit that it is going to push out the next elementary school, the next middle school, the next high school, whatever it is.”
If voters approve a $100 million dollar bond package, Assistant County Manager Clarence Grier told the board that could mean raising the tax rate by 4.18 cents for the next 20 years to cover the $6.7 million annual debt payments.
In order to get the referendum on the ballot for the November 2014 election, the school boards and commissioners must come up with a list of priorities by early June.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro administrators have already completed a detailed assessment of the district’s older buildings, while Orange County school officials have a study underway. County Commissioners will discuss the timing of the possible bond package at a meeting later this fall.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/bocc-eyes-older-schools-for-bond-referendum/
CHAPEL HILL- Years of deferred maintenance are taking a toll on local schools, leaving county and school officials scrambling to figure out how to foot the bill.
“We have to have a different communication with the citizens. We cannot even afford this. We don’t have enough money to do this,” said Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Vice-Chair Jamezetta Bedford, speaking Thursday at a joint meeting of school board members and county commissioners. “The idea that we want new things and we want this new park or whatever, when we can’t afford to maintain what we already have is very worrisome.”
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school budget allocates $20 million in the next decade to repair aging facilities, but a recent evaluation of the district’s oldest schools school revealed that repairing or replacing those facilities could cost as much as $170 million.
Orange County School administrators are still in the process of inspecting that district’s schools. Initial estimates for renovation range between $20 million and $68 million, but school officials say those numbers are likely to rise as many of the county’s oldest schools are in the Orange County system.
Members of the two school boards and county commissioners came together Thursday to discuss a potential bond package to take to voters, possibly as early as November of 2014.
County commissioners are considering a $100 million dollar bond referendum to pay for a new county jail and a fifth middle school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system, but that plan doesn’t yet include any projects to repair aging schools.
And with the jail and the middle school estimated to cost about $76 million, that leaves just $24 million to address what school officials say is a $230 million dollar problem.
County leaders hope to break ground on a new jail in the next four years, but Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board Chair Michelle Brownstein said the school systems can’t wait that long.
“My anticipation is that as more details come out about both Orange County schools and Chapel Hill schools, about the level of need at those schools, there’s going to be a greater sense of urgency,” said Brownstein. “There’s going to need to be evidence that we’re coming up with a plan. I don’t think it is reasonable to think that we’re going to be able to wait until 2016 to address our county’s school needs.”
The need for a new jail is also pressing, not only because the county jail is consistently overcrowded, but because the board recently signed a land lease with the state that mandates the county start construction within five years. Board of Commissioners Chair Barry Jacobs said failure to do so would invalidate the lease.
“If we haven’t done what we need to by that time then we’re just out of luck,” said Jacobs.
Nonetheless, County Manager Mike Talbert warned commissioners their options may be limited.
“Right now, outstanding debt is $190 million dollars. You’re looking at proposals that would nearly double that in a fairly short period of time. There are going to be limitations,” said Talbert. “Our debt has to grow in proportion to our budget and to our population. There are very much limits on what we can do.”
Veteran Orange County school board member and former county commissioner Stephen Halkiotis said he’s worked on three bond referendums over the years. He told the assembled leaders not to get too worried this early in the process.
“It always starts this way, so don’t get flabbergasted, don’t get upset,” said Halkiotis. “The first reach is real high. Then you realize you can only get certain fruit from the tree. Then you get real practical.”
Commissioners will discuss the feasibility of a possible bond package at their October 8 work session.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/school-and-county-leaders-consider-100m-bond-referendum/