The Johnston County Board of Education plans to ask county commissioners for about $5 million in additional funding for the fiscal year that starts July 1. But that number could change based on the outcome of several bills pending in the General Assembly.
At a meeting last week, Superintendent Ed Croom went over some preliminary budget numbers with school board members. He stressed that the numbers could change drastically depending on what happens in Raleigh.
One bill that has caught Croom’s attention would require school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of their time counseling students. That means they would no longer be involved in testing, so school districts would have to hire testing coordinators.
Another proposal would give more funding for social workers in schools. But the state would require a 2-1 funding match, Croom said.
“All of us agree those are good things to have happen, but none of that is factored into what I’m going to show you today,” Croom said.
The superintendent’s draft request to commissioners seeks $57.7 million – $54.6 million for school operations and $3.1 million for capital projects. Last year, the district received a total of $52.2 million from the county, with none of the money going to capital outlay.
Croom said the schools need money for roofing and parking projects. The district hopes to replace or repair aging roofs at high schools, including Smithfield Middle, Smithfield-Selma High, Four Oaks Elementary and Clayton High School.
Croom said the requested capital outlay could change depending on how the county votes in a bond referendum later this year.
The need for new technology is rising as well. The district has been experimenting with netbooks and tablets in the classroom, and Croom’s draft includes a $500,000 increase in the schools’ technology budget.
Croom also wants to equalize the pay of teaching assistants and bus drivers. Teaching assistants often substitute for bus drivers, and because bus drivers earn less, teaching assistants who pull sub duty are forced to take a cut in pay.
“That’s not right,” Croom said. Equalizing their pay would cost about $500,000.
The schools also face $1.2 million in federal sequestration cuts. Most of that money, Croom said, went to special-needs education.
“Just because that money got cut doesn’t mean we can say ‘Well, we can’t serve you,’” Croom said. “We’ll have to find a way to get that done, and it will have an impact on our local budget.”
The school board has scheduled a budget workshop for April 29.
The school board capped enrollment at 25 schools, meaning those schools won’t be able to accept student transfers from other schools.
The schools are listed below by elementary, middle and high:
Elementary – Benson, Cleveland, Cooper, Corinth Holders, Four Oaks, Glendale-Kenly, McGee’s Crossroads, Micro-Pine Level, Polenta, River Dell, Riverwood, Selma, West Clayton, West Smithfield and West View.
Middle – Archer Lodge, Clayton, Cleveland, Four Oaks, McGee’s Crossroads, North Johnston, Riverwood and Smithfield.
High – Cleveland and Corinth Holders.
The district fields about 2,500 requests every year for student transfers, said Deputy Superintendent Ross Renfrow. Many of the requests are from teachers who want their children to go to school with them.
“We look at each reassignment based on its own merits and follow the board policy,” Renfrow said.
The caps are a sign that the county needs to build new schools, board members said.
“What (the list) shows me is we’re behind,” Mike Wooten said.