Vance school board’s budget increased by security concerns

May. 14, 2013 @ 05:45 PM

Concern about security at its schools has bumped the cost of the Vance County school district’s capital outlay projects next year to more than $2 million.

The board of education’s request for the funds from the county, along with requests for $7.8 million in operating money and nearly $1.6 million for teacher pay supplements, make up the nearly $11.6 million 2013-14 school budget approved Monday by the board at its monthly meeting.

While the 75 items on the capital outlay wish list are mostly maintenance and repair needs, the $211,000 for remote door release and access systems at all the schools and another request for security officers at the two middle schools point to a heightened awareness about security.

In its budget message to the county commissioners, the school board said that it has “always placed an emphasis on health and safety” and that “recent horrific national events at schools and other venues have elevated the desire” of the board to have a continued focus on health and safety.

The door systems will “secure the access points into our buildings.”

The project calls for a camera to be installed at the front door of each school, on all doors at the 10 elementary schools and at the outside elevator at Henderson Middle School. Once a visitor has been identified, school staff can unlock the doors, which then lock when they are closed. A second phase of the project not included in the proposed 2013-14 budget secures all the remaining doors at the middle schools and the three high schools.

The school board is also asking for $64,800 for the security officers. Security officers are already deployed at the three high schools.

The total proposed school budget for 2013-14 is $2.9 million more than the allotment for the current school year. The request for operating funds is up 9 percent over this year’s allotment, and requests for teacher supplements and capital outlay are up 52 percent and 405 percent, respectively.

In its budget message to commissioners, the school board pointed to decreased state and federal funding and mandates that create more local expenses to support the need for more local funding.

The board said state funds have declined for five consecutive years and since 2008-09 Vance has lost $18.7 million.

“The 2013-2014 operating budget will continue to be squeezed by shrinking federal allotments as a result of sequestration and the projected increase in the state discretionary reversion,” the board wrote in its message to the commissioners.

The reversion has cost Vance schools $6.8 million over the past five years, and another hit of $1.7 million is projected for the next school year, according to the budget message. Reversion is a method the state uses to help cover shortfalls in the State Public School Fund. When the fund dips below $376 million, a level set by law, counties are required to return a portion of their state allotments.

On mandated expenses, the Vance school board said it expects a 1 percent across-the-board pay increase for teachers and other staff, an increase of 6 percent in its share of health insurance premiums and a slight increase in retirement contributions.

Charter school growth is also impacting the budget. The 718 Vance students who attend charter schools cost the school district $968 each this school year. Payments are made to charter schools in Vance and other counties. The board projects an increase of about 12 percent in the number of Vance students attending charter schools in the next school year. The cost is based on the average daily membership in the county’s public and charter schools and the amount spent on each pupil.

Supplements are paid to teachers and other staff members who qualify, and the request is $542,000 more than the current allotment. To qualify for the $2,500 supplement, staff members must be permanent employees with a current license issued by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

More than 500 employees qualify for the supplement.

Sources of funding previously used for capital outlay projects are drying up, the school board said. Corporate income tax revenue and much of the lottery revenue have been diverted to cover state budget shortfalls.

In its message, the board reminded commissioners that only $425,000 for capital outlay items has been allotted each year since the 2006-07 school year. The proposed $2.1 million spending would cover a variety projects, which include $65,500 to paint much of the interior at Southern Vance High School. Another $36,000 would pay for painting the interior at L.B. Yancey Elementary. Connecting to the county water system is expected to cost $15,000. Roof repairs at several schools is estimated at $106,000. Two large projects, installing new lights on the baseball and softball fields at both North Vance and Southern Vance high schools, are estimated to cost $237,000 and $251,000, respectively.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Heard requests for after-school Bible-based clubs in E.M. Rollins, Dabney and New Hope elementary schools. Volunteers with Public School Outreach Ministries asked for permission to register students for the Joy (Jesus’ Outreach to Youth) Club during school orientation, a rally point in each school and use of the schools’ media centers. All asked for a reduction in the standard $40 rental fee to $20. A club has been meeting each week this year at Rollins, and another, for older students, has been meeting at Eaton-Johnson Middle School as the Campus Light Club.

“I hope the school board will be favorable,” said Joan Ayscue, a member of West End Baptist Church and a volunteer at Rollins. “It is our hope we would be allowed in all the county schools by fall.”

She said the programs teach students how to love and respect one another and how to handle life situations in a Christian way.

Patricia Lenehan, a member of Central Baptist Church, made the request for use of Dabney, and Vicki Cannefax, a member of Rock Spring Baptist Church, made the request for New Hope.

No decisions on the requests were announced.

• Decided to discontinue its elementary after-school programs after the current year because of declining enrollment and rising costs. The board’s community and business relations committee reported that only 65 students are enrolled at five schools. Enrollment has been as high 225 students in previous years. Because of the poor economy, many parents cannot afford the $50 per week full-time enrollment cost or the $12 per day cost for drop-ins, the report said. Competition from other after-school programs has also cut into enrollment. The report said the programs have lost nearly $10,000 a year over the past two years. The shortfalls have been covered by profits from previous years.

• Congratulated Barbara Davis when she was presented with the N.C. Association of Educators award as the state’s Educational Support Professional of the Year.

Davis, an assistant teacher and bus driver at Pinkston Elementary School, will represent the state for national recognition by the National Education Association. Her selection is the fourth in a row for Vance County.

Others include Jameel Williams and Johnny Bullock, both of whom work at L.B. Yancey, and Devone Richardson, who works at the school board office.

In 2011, Williams was the national ESP winner. The award was presented to Davis by Rodney Ellis Sr., state NCAE president, and Chris Bridges, ESP division president. Other employees eligible for the award include cafeteria workers, custodians, bus monitors, secretaries and nurses.

• Declared 10 of the district’s 33 mobile units surplus and will advertise them for sale. The units are located at five schools.

 

Contact the writer at news@hendersondispatch.com.