PILOT MOUNTAIN — Surry County Schools could get five new teachers funded by the state for the lowest grades, but then the district could lose funding for about 10 other spots.
This was part of a summary of changes to expect for the next fiscal year given this week by Donna Bryant, the district’s finance officer.
The county Board of Education met this week in Pilot Mountain at the former Cleve Harris house on which the purchase was finalized earlier this month. The workshop was highlighted by Bryant’s presentation for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Funding from the state is based on the regular attendance figures provided by the schools, known as ADM (average daily membership). Over the past decade, school attendance has dropped by hundreds across the district.
Bryant showed a chart displaying the drop, starting with 8,693 students in 2008-09. In the current year, the ADM is locked in at 7,957. Next year the district is estimating 7,817.
“But that is a moving target,” noted Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent. Families move in and out of the county. Children are enrolled in kindergarten. Some kids transfer to another school, and some transfer from other schools.
Based on the ADM, the state calculates how many teachers it will pay to employ.
For the 2016-17 school year, Bryant said, the allotment count was 370.9 positions. That dropped to 359.4 in the current year. That was a drop of 11.5 teacher positions.
That drop amounted to about three-quarters of a million dollars less, noted Reeves.
What is misleading, he added, is that the state funding only dropped about $15,000 because the state cut jobs at the same time it was giving raises to the ones who survived the cuts.
For example, he said, the district lost two positions for principals/assistant principals for this year, but the overall budget for these jobs district-wide went up because of raises. He said he read one study where North Carolina was next to last in pay for principals, so there was a push at the state level to increase pay for those folks. However, it came at the cost of two job.
The state says it is spending more on education, but then they expect schools to maintain their level of quality with less manpower, noted Dr. Terri Mosley, board chair.
Based on attendance, Bryant estimates that the state funding for teachers across all 19 campuses will drop from 359 positions to 353, costing six jobs.
In the school support area of jobs such as media specialists and guidance counselors, she expects that will go down one from 37 to 36. If that happens, it will be the third time in four years that the district loses a spot in this category, she said.
Some other funding isn’t based on jobs, but simple dollar amounts. Looking at those categories, Bryant gave some other expected drops.
Pay for teacher assistants could drop $88,000, central office salaries could drop $21,800, and non-instructional jobs such as custodians and cafeteria workers could fall $34,000.
Driver’s education could fall $15,700, she said. Disadvantaged Student Supplement Fund, Low Wealth and At Risk would be down $9,200, $41,200 and $27,800, respectively.
Figuring low wealth is a complicated formula looking at many factors such as poverty levels, property tax collected, and sales tax, said Reeves. A couple of years ago, the state reclassified Surry County one tier higher, which caused a drop in low-wealth funding.
Also a couple of years ago, the General Assembly passed a law requiring smaller class sizes for grades kindergarten through third. At that time, there was no extra money offered for this unfunded mandate. A temporary reprieve was granted last year, and now the state is offering some money to go with the requirements.
Bryant said the state has established a K-5 “enhancement teacher allotment” of $60 million statewide to provide more teachers. She estimates Surry will get five jobs out of this money.
This is part of a four-year phase, she explained. Based on attendance models, she expects the county to get 18.3 new jobs over four years.
Since these positions have to be used to reduce average class size in K-3 rooms, the school board will still have to reduce teachers across the other grades.
She gave some suggestions on how that might be done:
• Reduce five teaching positions through retirements/resignations;
• Reduce 2.5 teacher assistant spots through retirement (one person is planning to leave in January so that creates the half-year);
• Reduce school-based administration;
• Reduce instructional support.
County funding will be addressed in a follow-up story.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.