BEAUFORT — With no official 2019-20 budget yet adopted by the General Assembly, the County Board of Education adopted a $91.9 million local budget for this fiscal year, which is 5.1% more than the $87.4 million approved last year.
“This has been a very unusual year because the state hasn’t adopted one official budget, but many budgets,” Chief Finance Officer Kathy Carswell said during the board’s meeting in the school system’s central office on Safrit Drive.
Board member Jake Godwin encouraged residents to contact legislators and encourage them to adopt a final budget.
“Everyone keep questioning their legislators,” Mr. Godwin said. “If you don’t, they’ll keep taking their time and dragging their feet.”
The predominantly Republican General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have remained at an impasse over the 2019-20 state budget, which is normally approved by the fall. In order to keep agencies operating, legislators have continued to adopt a series of “mini budgets.”
As for the county school system, Ms. Carswell said the budget resolution includes a salary step increase for all employees. She explained the increase would vary depending on positions but would average out to between a 1-3% increase.
In addition, “Benefits include an increase in retirement matching from 18.86 percent to 19.7 percent. It also includes an increase in employer hospital insurance costs from $6,104 to $6,306 per employee.”
The system’s budget is made up of state, county and federal funds.
The bulk of the budget increase over last year is because of increased costs in health benefits, retirement and funds for the Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School. There was also an increase in county capital funds because of the need to replace failed chillers at three schools.
The final budget shows $24.68 million in local current expense, which is 1.5% more than the $24.3 million allocated in 2018-19.
The local budget includes $23 million for regular operations. It also has $580,000 in charter school pass through funds, $307,000 in fines and forfeitures, $30,000 in sales tax reimbursements and $678,603 in appropriated fund balance.
The school system received $3.28 million in capital outlay appropriations, which is 56% more than the $2.1 million appropriated in 2018-19. The reason for the increase is because of the need to replace chillers at Harkers Island Elementary, Bogue Sound Elementary and an air handling unit at West Carteret High School.
Ms. Carswell said funds for those projects came from a special capital contingency fund set up by the county for school chiller replacements.
The school system received $50.59 million in state funding, which is 2% more than the $49.5 million in state funding provided for 2018-19.
That increase is mainly due to higher costs for retirement and hospitalization.
The school system received $4.04 million in special revenue funds, which is 44% more than the $2.8 million allocated for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Those funds come through special revenue sources such as Medicaid and N.C. Pre-K reimbursements.
In federal grant funds, the school system received $4.89 million, which is 3.3% more than the $4.7 million provided in 2018-19.
In addition, the school system received $4.4 million for child nutrition services, which is up 11.45% from what was received the previous year. Ms. Carswell said the increase comes because of the free breakfast and lunch now offered to elementary and middle school students.
The school system anticipates those funds coming through $3.8 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture reimbursements and $607,119 in sales revenue.
Of the local expense, the bulk will go to support instruction and operations. Also, $580,000 is designated for the Tiller School, a Beaufort charter school, as well as for students who attend other charter schools outside the county. That’s up from $545,000 last year, a 6% increase.
Under state appropriations, the majority will go for instructional and operational support services and special populations services. The bulk of federal allocations go to support special population services and alternative programs and services.
Under county capital, the following amounts are approved: $1.78 million, Category I, which includes painting, carpet, heating, ventilation and air conditioning repairs and planned repairs and renovations; $1.3 million, which includes technology, equipment and grounds, bands and departments; and Category III, vehicles and buses. There is also a special $43,675 appropriation for the lease purchase and installation of five modular units at Croatan High School.
Other board action included:
- Announced that a public comment time for the 2020-21 local budget will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4.
- Approved a 2020-21 school calendar that has Monday, Aug. 24, as the first day for students and Friday, June 4, 2021, as the final day.
- Proclaimed January National School Board Appreciation Month.
- Awarded a $252,179 bid to Curtis Construction Co. to repair the roof at Smyrna/Down East Middle School that was damaged during Hurricane Florence.
- Awarded a $119,900 bid to Crystal Coast Mechanical Inc. to replace the chiller at Atlantic Elementary School.
- Received a teacher/student growth report that shows the district above the state averages.
- Met in closed session to consider a confidential personnel matter. No action was taken in open session following that meeting.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.