Budget stalemate continues as new school year nears

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — For more than three weeks now the new state budget has been stalled and the old budget has been rolled over to keep funds flowing in Raleigh.

However, this is leading to tough decisions for local school districts across the Cape Fear.

State law rolls over the 2018-2019 budget, however that budget was $23.9 billion whereas the latest budget is around $25.5 billion according to state officials.

The House budget appropriates $118.5 million in 2019-20 and $228 million in 2020-21 to increase teacher and instructional support compensation according to Speaker Tim Moore’s office. You can see the comparison of Gov. Roy Cooper’s monetary allotments to schools versus the lawmaker version here.

That roughly $25.5 billion dollar budget needed to be ratified July 1, that’s the beginning of the new fiscal year 2019-2020. Now school systems have to work with the uncertainty of when or what they will receive from the state.

“It’s a concern it puts everything on hold in terms of what we are doing,” said Superintendent Tim Markely. “The faster they can get a compromised budget we can get our school year started because there are a lot of things that we would like to do.”

At the last New Hanover County Board of Education meeting, Markey announced that pay will have to be frozen to the previous school year wages because of the stalemate. He also agreed to not receive a scheduled pay raise because of this. However, Markley is concerned for the capital projects for the school system. 

“They will have to wait and we see what comes of the budget and school construction is one of them,” said Markley.

In March, Gov. Cooper originally proposed a $3.9 billion bond for school and education construction and water and sewer upgrades.

WWAY’s Andrew James reached out to several school systems around the Cape Fear on how the budget battle will impact the upcoming school year. Note, year-round schools in New Hanover Co. have already returned to class.

“There is no impact to Brunswick County Schools,” said Brunswick Co. schools spokesman Daniel Seamans. “BCS follows Interim Authority GS 143C-5-4 which authorizes us to continue to spend at the same(or lower) level of recurring expenditures from the previous year in regards to state funding.”

Even though systems like Brunswick and Bladen say they have made adjustments and will not be impacted, that is not the same for all districts.

“We are preparing a budget with the understanding that we will have to make adjustments when we receive final allotments,” said Columbus County schools spokesman Kelly Jones. “We are also holding off on purchasing all non-essential supplies and supplemental services until the budget is passed.”

“Like all public school districts throughout the state, Pender County Schools eagerly awaits the presentation of a finalized state budget,” said spokesman Alex Riley. “While the unknown will make it difficult to plan for teacher allotments, deserved raises and more, PCS is committed to meeting the needs within our district and providing student support.”

Governor Roy Cooper has made at least three visits to the Cape Fear region. He’s been to Wilmington, Southport as well as Fair Bluff to talk budget. Cooper was in nearby Robeson County Thursday talking teacher pay. The Republican conference budget proposed an average teacher raise of 3.8% plus a one time bonus over the biennium. Governor Cooper’s budget proposed a 9.1% average raise. The Governor has since backtracked in his ‘compromise‘ proposal for teachers to see an 8.5% increase.

Categories: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Local, New Hanover, Pender

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