Vance near bottom in study

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

In an effort to highlight the disparity between low wealth and high wealth counties, the Public School Forum recently released their 2012 School Finance Study.

Since a county’s primary source of revenue is local property taxes, the finance study draws on real estate information to evaluate a county’s ability to contribute to its public schools.

The study found that Vance County is one of North Carolina’s 25 poorest counties ranking 15th out of 100 in wealth percentage, with one being the poorest county.

“Property tax is driven by property values, which means as the property values go up, the amount of tax collected increases,” said Steven Graham, finance officer for Vance County Public Schools. “That’s what this study is saying, high wealth counties property values are higher, so they receive more money per student.

“So, there’s a disparity between low wealth and high wealth counties.”

In an effort to close the disparity gap, the state implemented two supplemental funds for low wealth and small counties in 1991.

Vance County does not qualify for small county supplemental funding, only provided to county school systems with an average daily membership (ADM) less than 3,175.

However, for the past 21 years Vance County has applied for low wealth supplemental funding, provided to systems whose ability to generate local revenue per student is below the state average.

With an ADM of 6,848 students, Vance County received $3,215,478 in low wealth supplemental funding this current fiscal year, averaging about $470 per student.

According to Graham, the state covers the cost of an allotted amount of teachers each year, and the majority of supplemental funding is used to cover salaries for the remaining positions.

“They cover the cost of a certain amount of teachers no matter what the money allotment is for their position,” Graham said. “From my standpoint, we try to put all the highest-paid certified teachers into that category, and then what we have left to fund, that’s where the low wealth, supplemental funding comes in.”

For Vance County teachers, who are among the lowest paid teachers in the nation, money received from low wealth supplemental funding is vital.

North Carolina was recently predicted to rank 48th in the nation for teacher pay.

A report generated by the National Education Association shows in preliminary estimates for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which ends in July, North Carolina teachers earn an average salary of $45,947 annually, compared to the national teacher salary of $55,418.

On Wednesday, in a report issued to the State Board of Education, it was determined that public schools have lost more than 4,000 teachers within the first three years of their careers since 2008.

Since 1992, Vance County has received $39,454,979 in low wealth supplemental funding.

For the fiscal year 2013-2014, the estimated allotment is $3,420,570, or $502 per student with an ADM of 6,809 students.

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.