Editor’s note: The school system’s proposed budget for next year does not include a proposed minimum starting salary of $50,000 a year for teachers. This story has been updated to reflect that correction.
The Cumberland County Board of Education on Tuesday night unanimously approved the superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 school year.
Based on Superintendent Marvin Connelly’s recommendation, the board is requesting $88.2 million in local funding from the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. That represents an increase of 6.2%, or $5.1 million, over the 2021-22 appropriation.
In other business, the school board voted 5-4 to continue with its optional mask policy. The board is required to vote on the policy each month.
Before the regular meeting got underway, a public hearing was held on the proposed closure of Lillian Black Elementary School and Ireland Drive Middle School. No one spoke on behalf of either school, and the board did not take any action on the proposed closures Tuesday night.
Budget priorities for the next school term include a minimum wage beginning at $15 an hour for bus drivers and other staff.
The money needed to meet the proposed salary goals might require a property tax increase by the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, the school board has said previously.
The school district’s local funding request will now be submitted to the county board by May 15 for consideration.
The total proposed budget for the school system is $699 million, which is a drop of 8% from 2021-22.
The State Public School Fund accounts for the largest portion of the budget at $348.2 million, or 49.8% of the total budget. Federal programs, Enterprise Fund and grants account for an additional $232.6 million, or 33.6%.
The federal budget makes up 26.6% of the district budget at $185.9 million. The capital outlay budget is approximately $13.6 million, or 2%, of the district budget.
The capital outlay budget is the primary source of funding for buildings, land and improvements, furniture and equipment, and vehicles, according to a release from the school system. This budget is funded by designated sales tax revenues with annual allocations from Cumberland County government.
The proposed salary schedule complies with a state-mandated minimum wage for all employees and eliminates the salary compression in the present schedule while increasing the local supplement of certified staff by an average of 2%, a release said.
The board’s Budget and Finance Committee previously OK'd the proposed budget by unanimous vote before it was passed on to the entire school board Tuesday.
“We remain committed to our students,” Connelly said during the board's regular monthly meeting. “Nearly three years ago, we made several commitments, and we determined to see them through. While a lot has changed since school in our strategic plan in 2019, our hope and aspirations for our young people have remained the same.
“Despite a global pandemic that has ravaged our world,” he said, “we remain resolute in the commitments detailed in our strategic plan – 'Together, We Will Rise!' We are reimagining the Cumberland commitment and working innovatively to educate our young people.”
Much of the budget invests in the system’s workforce, Connelly said.
As such, a large chunk of the local funding request focuses on investing in the district’s 6,000-plus employees and implementing cost-of-living and supplemental increases. The board is seeking approval from the commissioners to launch a funding model to support the implementation of competitive salary and supplement schedules for the district’s employees.
The superintendent said he was recommending that the full board seek approval from the county commissioners to implement the state-required $15 per hour minimum pay for all employees.
High-quality educators and staff are choosing to retire and transition to different careers, he said. Some are leaving for higher-paying career jobs. As a result, he said, it’s important that Cumberland County Schools remain competitive with other school districts statewide by recruiting and retaining highly qualified employees.
The key, Connelly told the board, is collaboration.
“By investing in our premiere professionals,” he said, “we are invested in the success of our students. It is more important than ever that we invest in our future – the future of our students is at stake. It is imperative that we then move forward with the budget proposal for the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners that we can all stand behind."
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.