Board of Education members still hoping for extra funding to pay decent salaries

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The cost of living in New Hanover County and throughout the region is rising, which is why local governments like New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington have raised employee salaries, but some people say they’re being left out.

New Hanover County commissioners approved the county’s annual budget in early June, and while 28% of the budget goes to fund the school system, school board members said it’s not enough to keep up with the cost. life of support staff.

The school system conducted a salary study, and it was determined in order to track costs that hourly workers must earn at least $17 an hour, so the school board presented that to the county.

“In order for them to live on the salary they receive from the district, they needed at least that amount of money. And we also had, we also had them coming to our meetings and letting us know that they were in trouble, and they had to go to food banks, they had to find two or three jobs just to support themselves. needs, and they love what they do, but they can’t live on the current salary,” said NHCS Vice President Stephanie Walker.

There are three parts to how school funding works. There are local funds, state funds and federal funds, according to Justice, Foust suggested that state schools only spend 15% of local funds on staff, while the NHCS spends about 35%.

School board member Judy Justice says the information Foust provided to county officials is flawed.

“No district only uses 15% of their local funding for staffing, they use 50% to 55% instead. And I provided the evidence to prove it and ourselves, I don’t know where he got the 35%, but ourselves do the same around 50% or more,” she said.

There are numbers that back up his claims.

“Counties funded 887 principals and vice-principals (16.6% of total), 6,055 teachers (6.4% of total), 2,463 teaching assistants (11.4% of total), and 3,479 school staff. professional pedagogical support (22.3% of the total). total),” according to a study.

“This represents 56.7% of local funding for staff in 2017-2018. These are the last numbers that were compiled before the pandemic hit in the 2019-20 school year,” Justice said.

It is unclear where Foust obtained the figures he presented to the Board of Commissioners.

That’s not the only issue Justice has with Foust, she says his statements about possible staff cuts have led to more uncertainty.

“He sent figures to the media that we are going to have to lay off 200 to 300 employees, which is scaring our employees and their families locally. We don’t have to do that, we shouldn’t do that. That does not make any sense. He keeps saying we’re going back to state allotment, there’s absolutely no district in this state that’s slowly relying on state allotment for its personnel,” he said. she declared.

County officials stood by their decision not to allocate additional funds to schools when the budget was approved. They reiterated that the school board is responsible for policy within the district and decides how it wants to allocate funds, and basically said that if the school board wants to increase salaries and wages, they should be able to do so. do with your budget. .

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