BOC boosts teacher budget
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners as soon as Thursday could pass a $1.5 million increase for the school district approved Monday during a daylong budget session.
County Schools Superintendent Mo Green and the Guilford County Board of Education asked commissioners for a $13 million increase in the $175 million it received last year and for past five years prior, to about $189.2 million. Commissioners voted to include a $1.5 million increase in their proposed $559 million 2014 operations budget for teacher assistants and teacher pay.
Republicans used their 5-4 majority to keep the amount at $1.5 million even as Democrats sought to increase the amount to $2 million. The money will come from savings in the county’s 401(k) retirement plan and other sources, said Republican Commissioner Bill Bencini of High Point.
“I supported this increase, and it will be applied to fund teacher assistants and the balance will go to teachers in general,” Bencini said. “We were able to come up with sizable savings to do this.”
District leaders and education supporters campaigned for weeks for more money for the schools.
Here is what High Point’s school board members say:
“I hope the money will help save some teacher assistant positions because they are certainly a vital point of help in the classroom. More children need that individual attention, and they’d lag behind. The county commissioners have lots of decisions to make, but when it comes down to it, the children are our future, and if you miss the basics, you spend more money on the back side.”
— Carlvena Foster, District 1 school board member.
“I’m sure if the commissioners had it, they would’ve given what they could. I appreciate the commissioners working with us because they had a hard job this year. I don’t consider this a $12 million loss, I look at it as we gained $1.5 million. I would think it will go into operations and maintenance because that’s where we need the most done.”
— Ed Price, District 2 school board member
A plea for funding for three additional school nurses and assistant teachers helped to spark a conversation about more money for the schools, said Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point.
“We wanted to make sure they have those nurses,” Davis said. “I think we’re all aware that without teaching assistants, the student loses out.”
Bencini said he expected commissioners to approve a budget Thursday.
“I think we can wrap it up,” he said. “We have spending down. The question is the tax rate. We could have no increase and we could also reduce it.”
By adjusting the 401(k) contributions, the county will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, Bencini said. Instead of providing a 5 percent contribution to all employees, even if they don’t participate, the plan would provide a match up to 5 percent for participants. Commissioners also would cut proposed contributions to community groups by keeping funding at current levels, Bencini said.
By Jordan Howse and David Nivens
Guilford Proposed 2014 Budget
Operations: $559 million for operations; property tax rate, 78.04 cents per $100 valuation, unchanged. The owner of a $100,000 house would continue to pay $780.04 a year in property taxes.
Budget vote: Possible Thursday when commissioners meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Old Courthouse