The budget process for public schools in North Carolina is a complicated and increasingly difficult task each year. Our Board of Education works diligently to balance the increasing needs of the school district with the mandates and changes brought about by the North Carolina General Assembly. Schools in North Carolina are funded via two primary sources:
- The State budget as set by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor; and
- Local funding through county governments
In April 2017, the Orange County Board of Education approved a budget request that would require an additional $405 per student in local funding to continue services at the current level. That request was forwarded to the Orange County Manager, who subsequently publishes the Manager’s Recommended Budget for consideration by the Board of Orange County Commissioners (BOCC). The County Manager’s budget upon which the BOCC now deliberates included $123 increase per pupil.
Because the State budget is not set when the County requires local budgets from school districts to be submitted, certain assumptions must be made regarding the outcome of the State budget. Both the House and Senate budgets have now been released and it appears funding will move forward substantially as proposed, thereby allowing schools to realign their budget requests more confidently with the anticipated State revenue. Based on this realignment, the funding needed for Orange County Schools (OCS) continuation budget can now be modified to a total increase of $257 per pupil. The BOCC would need to add $134 per student to the Manager’s per pupil recommendation to fully fund OCS’ modified request.
It is important to note that while the BOCC provides funding to the schools, it is the statutory responsibility of the BOE to allocate the funding according to the specific needs of the district. If the BOCC does not provide the required $257 per pupil increase, the BOE would need to make cuts in their budget to accommodate the shortfall. Although the BOCC has historically done the best they could to fund schools, the Superintendent and BOE recognize the need to plan for any revenue shortfall that may occur. If adequate funding is not forthcoming from the BOCC, cuts in the following areas may be considered in order to properly align revenues and expenditures for FY2018:
- Discontinue travel/training for professional development of teachers and staff;
- Furlough 12-month employees 1 day per month for FY2018;
- Eliminate teacher assistant positions except those in Exceptional Children’s classes (currently TA’s are assigned in grades K-3);
- Significantly reduce or eliminate athletic supplements (coaches for middle/high school);
- Eliminate the middle school afterschool program;
- Eliminate the Universal Breakfast program in elementary schools;
- Significantly reduce or eliminate offerings in some programs (e.g. AIG, IB, world languages).
The current County budget leaves a shortfall of approximately $1.1 million to fund OCS’ revised request. Cuts would be required in most of the afore-mentioned programs in order to accommodate that shortfall.
Remaining BOCC budget work sessions are scheduled for June 8 (Southern Human Services Center, Chapel Hill), June 13 (Whitted Building, Hillsborough) and June 15 (Southern Human Services Center). No public comment is heard during work sessions, however, comment regarding budgetary matters may be offered during the public comment period at each BOCC meeting, the next of which is scheduled for 7pm Tuesday, June 6 at the Richard E. Whitted Building, 300 West Tryon Street Hillsborough.
A Resolution of Intent to adopt the budget, which will include the per pupil allocation for FY18, will likely be approved at the end of the June 15 work session. The final budget approval by the BOCC is slated for June 20, 2017. Interested persons may access agendas for each of these meetings approximately three days in advance of the meeting date at: http://www.orangecountync.gov/departments/board_of_county_commissioners/agendas.php