4/22/16 School board sets budget hearing

School board sets budget hearing
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 4/22/16  
Reprinted with permission.      

   Even though the N.C. General Assembly’s short session has yet to begin, the Alamance-Burlington School System has its proposed budget ready for public comment.

   That’s business as usual in recent years. The district won’t know how much the state will contribute in 2016-17 until the legislature votes on it, which is supposed to happen at the end of June, but has gone months past that deadline in the past few years.

   Still, the Board of Education will hold its public hearing on the district’s 2016-17 budget Monday at 6 p.m. in the board room of the district Central Office at 1712 Vaughn Road.

   The proposed ABSS budget increases spending by close to $3.3 million. The year after a significant hike in funding from the Alamance County Board of Commissioners and a 5-cent tax increase and with capital spending coming in the next few years, Superintendent Bill Harrison said he did not want to push too hard on spending in the coming budget. He also said ABSS had to keep up its incremental increases in pay for teachers and other employees and expansion of specialized programs like the Splash! Spanish immersion program.

   The county contributed about 24 percent of the current $187 million budget or $46 million, according to ABSS, and the state makes the largest contribution of about $125 million this year.

   The legislature is expected to increase teacher pay statewide, said ABSS executive director of finance Shannon Dennison, though no one can say how much that will be. The budget estimates the a 2.5-percent pay increase from the state, which it uses to estimate increases in the local teacher supplement.

   The proposal would increase the local supplement the county puts on top of the state-funded base pay by an additional 1 percent next year. The supplement is graduated based on teachers’ time at ABSS, so those with five years or less at ABSS would get 10 percent supplements, those with six to 10 years would get 11 percent, and those with 11 or more years would get 12 percent for a total of $1.7 million.

   The long-term plan is to increase the supplement by 1 percent per year until the range is 13 to 15 percent supplements. The increase would come to about $8 million to fully implement the district’s five-year strategic plan in 2020 with the aim of being competitive with nearby districts like Guilford, Orange and Durham county schools.

   Assistant principals and principals also would get increases in their local supplements of $140,175.

   Classified employees, who include everyone from school psychologists to custodians, would get a $200 supplement across the board — for $161,620 — while the district conducts a $60,000 pay study to see how competitive local pay is.

   Hiring more teachers and teacher assistants for specialized programs like the Splash Spanish immersion program would cost the county an additional $702,611. The plan to hire more teachers for the district’s high-poverty schools.

   Technology spending would not get an increase next year, delaying by a year the plan to get laptops or tablets to every student.

   The proposed budget would ask for $500,000 for maintenance and construction next year.