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Guilford County Schools waiting on state to finalize education budget

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The superintendent of Guilford County Schools released her proposed budget for the 2017-2018 school year this week. But until the state legislature finalizes its budget for education, the district's spending will stay up in the air.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras' recommendation asks the Guilford County Commission for an additional $8.2 million for the operating budget, compared to last year. Most of that will go to raises for teachers and another chunk will go to charter schools.

She's asking for another $10 million for maintenance on district buildings. That money will go to the capital outlay fund.

When it comes to creating an annual budget, districts like Guilford County Schools must comply with constraints set by the state.

“It creates huge pressure on the budget," Board Chairman Alan Duncan said.

The district expects at least 230 more public school students next year and another 950 to enroll in charter schools.

“Our enrollment’s going up. Charter schools’ enrollment’s growing, so we’ll just have more students to spread those dollars over," said Angie Henry, the CFO for Guilford County Schools.

The district's already made some adjustments for anticipated growth by increasing class sizes by one person in sixth through 12th grades.

“If we don’t get additional funding for those 951 students, then we’ll have to cut services to our students to be able to send those dollars to charter schools," Henry said. "We don’t have any choice in that matter. That’s state statute.”

The district's also dealing with aging infrastructure.

"The money we have received has not really allowed us to do preventative maintenance," School Chief of Staff Nora Carr said.

District staff is putting together a list of projects that need an update.

“Thirty-year-old-plus HVAC systems, outdated wiring, plumbing, other kinds of just basic infrastructure that you don’t really see," Carr said.

The budget will go before the school board, who will hold work session and public hearing. Board members must approve a budget by May 15.

Then, it goes to county commissioners, who must approve their budget by June 30. The superintendent's proposed district budget would bring the money provided by the county commission to about $196.6 million.