Under a budget proposed by New Hanover County Schools, the district could face the need to cut more than 200 positions over the next three years.
The proposed budget, approved earlier this month and sent to county commissioners, would give classified staff like teaching assistants and bus drivers a raise to a minimum of $17 an hour over the next three years.
But Superintendent Charles Foust pointed this out in a presentation that comes at a cost: The district may have to cut 230 staff positions to fill budget gaps.
“I’m not denying the fact that we should have these positions, I’m just saying we can’t have it all and then do whatever the board wants,” Foust told the school board at a special meeting held earlier. this month. specifically to discuss budget issues.
The district may see the need to reduce staff as they are currently well above state allotment in several positions.
The State of North Carolina allocates and funds a number of teaching, support, and administrative positions, and the district funds additional positions in local dollars.
Based on a presentation from Acting Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Ashley Sutton, the district currently has at least 211 positions that are not state-assigned and therefore must be funded locally, from teachers to vice principals to counselors and social workers.
For this reason, the hardest hit section of district staff if the budget is approved could be in educational support – media coordinators, counselors, social workers, educational coaches and more.
To be in alignment with state allocations, the district would have to cut 123 of those positions. The district currently has 238 people in these positions, but only 115 are publicly funded.
“The reason I’m sharing this with you is to say these are all the positions we already have and when we go through the budget and try to seek funding for an increase we have to do something different because we we can’t keep it all and then add more,” Foust said. “Our budget doesn’t allow for that.
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It comes as the state of North Carolina is already ranked among the worst for student mental health services.
A national survey ranked North Carolina 42nd out of 50 states in overall youth mental health, StarNews reported in March. Schools statewide, including in New Hanover County, have far fewer counselors, social workers and school psychologists than recommended based on the number of students in the district.
But there’s simply no way to mitigate that under the proposed budget, directors said. The district’s budget would already be squeezed under the proposal to increase the minimum wage, and because of this, funds would not be available to maintain many locally funded positions.
Other locally funded positions that could see cuts under the proposed budget include 34 vice principals, 17 basic enrichment positions such as art and physical education teachers, 15 teachers for gifted students and 22 of teachers in the classroom.
That doesn’t mean everything will be cut indefinitely over the next three years, Foust said. These numbers simply represent what would need to happen to be aligned with state funding.
But if county commissioners approve the proposed budget, the school board will face a harsh reality as it weaves together a tight budget that could see hundreds of staff cut to provide higher salaries for others.
The current proposal would ask county commissioners to provide schools in New Hanover County with $8.5 million over the next three years.
At their meeting earlier this month, Sutton also presented a proposal to increase classified staff to a minimum of $16 an hour, which would cut 134 positions over the next three years. The board was split between the $16 and $17 minimum, voting four different times on the proposals.
With only six board members present after Stefanie Adams left, the board voted 3 or 3 times multiple times before Hugh McManus changed his vote to the $17 an hour minimum. .
The budget will now head to County Commissioners for review.
Reporter Sydney Hoover can be reached at 910-343-2339 or email@example.com.