Cumberland County school employees would be paid a minimum of $15 per hour and low-performing schools would get increased funding in a budget outline approved by a school board committee on Thursday.
The Board of Education’s finance committee approved a 2022-23 budget plan recommended by Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. when it met Thursday morning at the Educational Resource Center on Elementary Drive.
The recommended budget will now go before the full Board of Education for final approval.
In a presentation to committee members, Connelly said the school system should invest in improvements as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
“As we begin to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, we have the opportunity of a lifetime — and most importantly, a moral imperative — to work collaboratively to improve the learning and life outcomes of all students while supporting our premier professionals,” Connelly said. “They deserve no less.”
The budget plan is aligned with the school system’s five-year strategic plan, he said.
The proposed budget includes federal, state and local funding sources for a total of $699 million, which is down 8% from the previous year. Certified employees would get a 2.5% salary increase, and others would be paid 2.5% more and at least $15 per hour.
The state would provide 50% of the district’s budget. The federal government would fund about 32%, and local funding would be about 18%.
Local funding sources would include Cumberland County, providing $88.2 million, an increase of 6.2% over fiscal year 2022; $3.6 million in enterprise program revenue; and $31.3 million from grants and other revenue sources that include interest and fines.
Connelly said that while most of the money would come from state or federal sources and often would be designated for a specific use, school officials solicited feedback on how to allocate discretionary funds.
“It is imperative, now more than ever before, that we synergize and collaboratively move forward with a budget proposal for the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners that we can all stand behind,” he said in a prepared statement on the school system’s website.
The proposed budget includes increased support “in terms of frequency and intensity” for the district’s Tier 1 schools, which are designated by the state as low-performing in academic standards. The increased support for those schools will help them “create focused school improvement plans with measurable standards and goals,” Connelly said.
The budget would comply with a minimum salary of $15 per hour set by the state legislature for noncertified employees next year.
After a salary study conducted by an external organization, Connelly is recommending that the school board ask the county commissioners to approve a funding model that enables the school system to pay competitive salaries to professional employees.
Since that funding may not be feasible for the county at this time, the superintendent recommends that the school board use a combination of unallocated money and pandemic-related federal grant funding to help implement the funding model. The school system would contribute $10.4 million in the first year and $5.2 million in the second.
The county commissioners would be asked to fund the plan beyond that.
The plan “allows our school system to remain competitive with neighboring districts and recruit and retain highly qualified employees by increasing the local supplement for certified staff by an average of 2%,” Connelly said.
By investing in the system’s professional educators, he said, “we are investing in the success of our students.”