CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark wants to see more student support services in next sch
ool year’s budget, which comes with a $26.9-million increase from the county.
Clark presented a $1.5-billion budget proposal, with about 60 percent of funding coming from the state and many parts of the budget dependent on state actions.
She said the budget request and increase for the county would knock out four critical needs in the district.
“Next year is the final year of our strategic plan,” she said. “We are staying the course set by the plan and focusing on the six goals we set for the district. We are seeing steady improvement in student achievement and district performance – and my budget recommendation seeks to continue that. We want to educate every child well and our budget request will help us to achieve that goal.”
County Manager Dena Diorio forecasts county revenue will grow by $35 million for the coming year.
Increasing operational costs
CMS expects to add 753 more students next fall to this year’s enrollment of 147,157, as well as open five new schools, including a computer science/coding full magnet elementary school that Rocky River-zoned families can take advantage of, the UNCC Early Educators program, a full magnet Montessori high school and moving Marie G. Davis high school magnet program to Hawthorne Academy to establish a countywide K-8 IB magnet school at Marie G. Davis.
Approximately $5.4 million of the increased request from the county will cover this need, including enrollment growth, new space and operations costs.
CMS also has to prepare if the state retains its mandate for smaller K-3 classes, which could force the district to reallocate money from other programs to hire more teachers.
Investing in teachers
Gov. Roy Cooper announced last month he wants to see teacher and administrative salaries increase, which means CMS anticipates a pay increase from the state. This means CMS will have to match that increase for employees paid through local funds.
The district expects a 7-percent raise for school-based administrators and a 3-percent raise for certified and non-certified staff.
Clark also recognized that benefits costs continue to rise for both CMS and its teachers, which means they’re taking home less money after benefits. CMS estimated a 3.56 percent net decrease in take-home pay since 2008.
CMS is seeking a total of $10.3 million for increases in salaries and benefits; however, the actual cost is unknown because it depends on state action.
Clark didn’t ask for any additional pay increase from the county, but hopes CMS and the county can develop a plan to increase local teacher supplements within the next few years.
Reaching students’ needs
In a time when CMS is trying to break-up high concentrations of poverty, the pressure is on to reach those students.
That’s why Clark said a “critical need” for this year’s budget is increasing student support services, which comes with a $4.43 million price tag and adds 42 school counselors, six psychologists and 12 social workers.
“We know that social and emotional issues can get in the way of academic achievement,” Clark said. “Our counselors, psychologists and social workers play important roles in developing a healthy mindset for every student. But our staffing ratios in these areas are well above those recommended by national professional organizations and this hinders our ability to provide comprehensive support to our students.”
In 2014-15, CMS launched a four-phase student support plan, seeking to improve social and emotional health services. The district completed the first phase and part of the second phase, adding 49 school counselors, six psychologists and five social workers, as well as school-based mental health supports in 101 schools.
However, the superintendent mentioned the district had forgone asking for increased student services in past budgets, but community members, staff and students consistently raise this need as a “top priority.”
Passing money to charter schools
CMS estimates 2,587 new students will enroll in local charter schools next year, as new schools open in Mecklenburg County.
The superintendent’s budget requests an additional $6.7 million in county funding for the charter school pass-through.
According to state law, when a local district calculates its per-pupil spending, the school system must pass on that spending to local charter schools for each student attending those schools when they otherwise would attend CMS.
If the county doesn’t allocate additional funds, the money has to come out of other parts of the budget and could lead to diminished initiatives or resources.
Clark said she’s worked with incoming Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on the budget, but is still looking for additional feedback.
The district will host three community meetings on the budget, with one at Jay M. Robinson Middle School on April 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The board will host a public hearing on the budget recommendation at its April 25 meeting and seek to approve the budget at the May 9 meeting.