FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — The budget approved Friday by the N.C. Senate would cost Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools more than $10 million, including the loss of more than 250 early grade teacher assistants and 28 classroom teachers, according to preliminary estimates from the district’s finance department.
Superintendent Beverly Emory said that if the Senate budget is adopted, job loss would be “inevitable,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
The district budget woes are two-fold. Its local budget is being cut by more than $600,000 while the proposed Senate budget would cut financing for teacher assistants, classrooms teachers, administration and transportation to pay for teacher raises.
The Senate’s budget proposal would give teachers an average pay raise of 11 percent — in exchange for longevity pay and job protections— which the district would have to match for employees not paid with state funds.
When the district made a request for a funding increase of $3.5 million to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners earlier this month, $1.6 million was to cover an anticipated 3 percent pay raise for teachers.
Bigger raises mean more local dollars the district has to find for the match. Since the district will receive less from the county than it did last year, the match will have to come from the fund balance or cuts. Emory called the county budget disappointing, but “not terribly surprising.”
The county follows a funding formula based on sales tax revenues, property taxes and school district enrollment. County Manager Dudley Watts said the formula means the school system has to weather the same financial storm as the county.
“The spirit behind (the formula) was … the schools would either benefit or have to deal with … this calculated percentage of the county budget,” Watts said. “Unfortunately, it’s not been a good revenue picture for the county at all.”
While the local budget cuts alone would not cause job loss in the schools, those cuts coupled with a proposal like that in the Senate budget would.
Emory said the district didn’t have exact figures, but an 11 percent pay raise would likely be more than the district could handle through its fund balance. A fund balance is the difference between the assets and liabilities of a fund.
“I’m really fearful to what degree we can rely on fund balance, particularly for raises. Those are a recurring, ongoing expense that isn’t going away,” Emory said. “Continuing to use our fund balance is a short-term solution.”
The district dipped into its fund balance this year to save teacher assistant jobs after last minute state cuts in 2013 eliminated about 100 positions from the district. The idea was to make as many job cuts as possible through attrition and give the rest a year’s notice that their job may not be there the next year.
The Senate budget proposal would cut an additional 268 teacher assistants in Forsyth County.
“It’s devastating,” Emory said. “To impact the kind of instruction that we need in those K-3 classrooms, we need more adults.”
The Senate budget would also cut 28 teaching positions from the district and $1.1 million from transportation needs.
Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget plan called for fewer cuts and more modest teacher raises. If that plan were adopted, it may not result in job loss, Emory said.
The state House hasn’t released its budget.