The Orange County Board of Commissioners hosted a multitude of educators and school administrators during a summit on local academic funding that was held earlier in the week.

Speaking in his capacity as assistant superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Dr. Todd LoFrese took the opportunity to brief county officials on the financial wherewithal of his district.

“The district receives funding for our operational budget from three primary areas,” he explained. “First is our local budget — that’s our largest component — at around $75.5 million; our state budget is just shy of $62 million; and our federal budget is just shy of $7 million.”

County officials are expected to ruminate on those margins before voting on school district budgets later this year, but LoFrese added that salaries for teachers should also be taken into account.

“Over 75 percent of our funding is spent on the salaries and benefits of those employees that are working in our schools supporting our students and teaching our students, which is the reason why we always start our budget process by considering what raises might be authorized by the General Assembly,” he relayed.

According to LoFrese, the North Carolina General Assembly is expected to grant a five-percent pay raise to public school teachers this year, thereby creating a need for additional funding.

“Just the salary and benefit item alone for our district, we project that we’ll need close to $2.5 million next year to fund those anticipated state mandates,” he announced.

LoFrese announced that his district will seek $5.74 million in funding for the upcoming academic year, with a portion of that funding intended to address concerns over school supply acquisitions.

“Over the past several years, as costs have increased and inflation has occurred, our schools’ ability to purchase instructional supplies has been compromised,” he admitted. “What this represents is a nominal one-and-a-half-percent increase over the current year’s spending for instructional supplies.”

That funding may bode well for a district whose student count is expected to exceed 12,000 by next year, but LoFrese revealed that new schools will not be needed for at least another decade.

“Currently, we don’t have a need for any school at any level for the next ten years,” he claimed. “We are, through our Lincoln Center project, increasing elementary school capacity, and so that’s going to extend the time frame in which we might need to build a new elementary school, and if we’re able to complete [renovations to] those older schools […] all of those projects increase capacity as well.”

Funding estimates for Orange County Schools were also relayed to council members during the summit by Dr. Todd Wirt, who put the request for his district at $4.07 million.

Photo by Orange County Schools.