GUILDFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County Schools is short hundreds of employees, including teachers, maintenance staff and bus drivers. To fill the jobs, district leaders are asking for a budget increase of more than 25 percent.

On Thursday, the school district hosted a job fair to not only make hires but also make connections with the community as they wait to see if county commissioners will consider their ask for tens of millions of dollars to get and keep teachers in our classrooms.

“The big ask is to invest in our people and get them to competitive wages,” Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley said.

She is asking for an additional $62 million in her proposed budget. Most of the money would increase teacher salaries and give classified staff raises sooner in their career.

“I’m optimistic that we will fill vacancies as we have in the past, but we need to make sure that we are making progress towards teacher supplement in order to be competitive with other districts,” Dr. Oakley said.

She is optimistic Guilford County commissioners will approve the request. 

“We just have to continue to show up, to speak up…we will continue to advocate. We don’t have the tax levying authority, so there is only so many things we can do in this budget season…we will continue to work together,” Dr. Oakley said.

It costs about $1 billion to keep the district running for the year, and around 32 percent of the money is locally funded. The rest is state and federal money.

“Over the last few years, our county commissioners have stood by our side during good times and hard times,” Dr. Oakley said.

The superintendent understands this is a negotiation with the county. Commissioners did approve the first phase to give teachers more money, and Dr. Oakley is expecting the second phase in her proposed budget to be approved.

“It is a really challenging time in public education, and we need people who are devoted to kids,” she said.

The district wants the budget to reflect its values, which is giving the best to its nearly 68,000 students.

“Eleventh in the state in terms of teacher supplement and the third largest district. They deserve more than that,” she said.

The next step is for the school board to hold a public hearing on the budget and adopt it at their next meeting on May 9.

FOX8 did speak with Skip Alston, the Guilford County commissioners chairman, before the commissioners headed into their meeting Thursday night.

He says he wants to help the school system but also protect the taxpayers. He won’t increase property taxes to get the money needed, so he told me there would have to be cuts which calls for a larger conversation.