Grimesey at Board of County Commissioners 2021

Bob Grimesey, superintendent of Moore County Schools, presenting the proposed Moore County Schools 2021-22 budget to county leaders on April 20. Laura Douglass/The Pilot

The Moore County Board of Commissioners reviewed a proposed new framework for school funding on Tuesday that would allocate a per-pupil calculation for the upcoming fiscal year.

The $32.5 million local budget request covers the associated costs with projected enrollment growth in the district and in charter schools, plus $1.1 million to fund a new salary scale for supporting staff.

“It is time to provide full and certain funding for every child whether they sit in our classrooms or log in from home,” said Board of Education Chair Libby Carter. “It seeks to maintain our programs and staff that make our school system one of the finest in the state. It seeks to maintain (current funding levels), it does not seek to add.”

Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey said the budget represents a “fresh approach” to ensuring basic local revenue for both Moore County Schools and the area’s public charter schools.

Last year, commissioners dissolved their four-year-old policy that allocated 40 percent of revenue to its school district. That decision came after Moore County Schools presented a local budget request to the county for the 2020-2021 school year that exceeded 40 percent of projected revenue.

From 2017 to 2019, county funding to the schools — including for digital learning and the district’s annual allowance for building maintenance — accounted for just over 40 percent of revenue. Local funding for the current year fell slightly short of that threshold.

Andrew Cox, the school district’s finance director, said the calculations used in the proposed budget are based on four-year average figures.

Commissioners Vice Chairman Louis Gregory questioned why locally funded certified staff were projected to receive a 3 percent salary increase while locally funded classified staff would receive a 1 percent salary increase.

Cox said the increases matched the anticipated increases for state-paid salaries of Moore County’s certified and classified positions. He said the average teacher salary runs approximately $49,000 annually. With benefits, the total outlay is closer to $70,000. A beginning teacher’s salary is about $34,000 plus benefits.

A teacher assistant’s average pay is closer to $30,000 annually, or around $42,000 when combined with benefits. That is approximately a $15-$21 per hour pay rate.

“I am concerned about the classified positions,” Gregory said. “At $30,000 is not what I’d like to see going forward. That is substantially less and these are employees we depend on. They are hardworking employees for Moore County and $30,000 isn’t much to be asking what we are of them.”

The proposed budget includes projected enrollment numbers. As presented, Cox anticipates 1,391 students will attend charter schools next year, or about 215 more. Moore County Schools’ enrollment projection for next school year is about 12,500, an increase of 100.

MCS is also in line to receive additional federal pandemic-relief funding; however, these funds come with specific directives on how the money can be spent. It’s expected that a substantial portion will be allocated to address learning loss and assist students “who have lost ground” over the last year.

Grimesey said the district must be cautious about adding any new programs because of the limited time period of the funding stream, but that there is flexibility with proposed expenses if they relate to COVID-19 needs or recovery.

In other action on Tuesday, the Moore County Board of Commissioners:

Appointed DeVault Clevenger and Eric Galloway to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council;

Appointed Kathy Liles as a Review Officer;

Reviewed a list of recommended policies for Moore County Transportation Services. Planning Director Debra Ensminger said the changes would provide clarification for riders and enhance safety for clients as well as bus drivers;

Approved an update to the county’s Highway Corridor Overlay standards; and

Approved a proposed 12-lot conservation subdivision on a 34-acre parcel on Bibey Road.

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