ROCKY MOUNT — The Franklin County School Board approved a budget of $91.3 million, a 3.9 percent increase over the current year, at its meeting Monday night.
A breakdown of the district’s revenues shows little change is expected in state and federal funds, but a significant increase in county funds: $3.4 million.
The board is requesting an additional $133,610 on top of the county’s annual capital allocation of $880,000 to pay for additional maintenance projects. These include asbestos removal, plumbing and electrical upgrades and bus replacement purchases at various schools in the system. It also includes air conditioning installations in the cafeterias of Boones Mill Elementary School and Burnt Chimney Elementary School.
The budget also includes $1.4 million for a salary step increase, or a minimum 2 percent increase for all employees. The board pointed out that a competitive teacher salary schedule to promote recruitment and retention has been a continued financial struggle for the county.
There are 30 new budget initiatives totaling $2.4 million for which school officials hope to obtain funding. One of the largest is $400,000 to cover increased health insurance costs. The board approved an increase of 8.6 percent on the current rates, which is the portion of the increase the board would need to pay. The increase in costs comes from a small number of employees making large claims.
Some of the other large budget initiatives are:
- $225,000 to increase the salary scale for licensed practical nurses
- $263,173 to secure building entrances
- $221,454 for additional family liaisons
The district anticipates the trend of declining student enrollment to continue next year. The 2018-19 budget anticipates an average daily membership of 6,770 students. This would be the fifth year in a row that number has decreased. The school system has seen a decline of more than 500 students over the past 12 years, which affects the amount of state funding it receives.
The board approved the budget proposal unanimously and with no discussion after the presentation.
Superintendent Mark Church will present the budget to the Franklin County Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday meeting. Though the school board has approved its budget, the county ultimately holds the purse strings, and the two boards have sparred over budget matters in the past.
In January, the boards quarreled over carryover debt dropoff funds. The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution essentially warning the school board to not count on those funds being appropriated in the future.
The resolution didn’t change policy or procedures, but indicated the board would take a tough stance on future requests.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the school board also hopes to discuss the potential for a referendum to ask residents to approve a tax increase on a future ballot. This would go toward funding major renovations needed in the school system — namely large capital projects at Benjamin Franklin Middle School and Franklin County High School.
Chariman G.B. Washburn said it costs the school district more every year that the projects aren’t completed and hopes the Board of Supervisors can help them find the funding.
“We need a commitment from start to finish,” Washburn said.