Macon County Schools ask state to restore funding to local districts 

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Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.53.05 AMBrittney Burns – Staff Writer

Citing the North Carolina Constitution, Macon County Schools approved a resolution Monday night asking the state to fulfill their obligation to provide a sound, basic education to all school aged children by restoring funding to local districts.

The resolution, which was unanimously approved by the board of education, notes that inflation-adjusted per pupil spending in the North Carolina remains below pre-recession levels. The National Educators Association’s report ranks North Carolina as 46th in per pupil spending in the country for the 2014-15 school year.

The resolution also explains that in 2008, North Carolina was ranked at 25th in the U.S. for teachers’ salaries but has since fallen to 42nd overall.

“Despite research showing the cost-effectiveness of Pre-K services, the N.C. General Assembly has cut funding Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.53.42 AMand reduced the number of state funded pre-kindergarten seats by 5,400 since 2008,”  reads the resolution.

Funding for public education is split between the federal government, the state, and the county. The state funds approximately 60 percent of public education with the remaining funds coming from federal and local sources.

“The state has cut funding since 2008, many local government leaders have shouldered more of the burden of funding for public schools by increasing property taxes or cutting important programs or positions,” reads the resolution.

To address the issues, the resolution calls for the N.C. General Assembly to fully fund public education to reflect growth and student needs as well as calls upon the General Assembly to reinstate K-12 enrollment growth funding as part of the continuation budget. The resolution also calls for legislation that rejects the current trend of shifting education spending to local counties.

Funding from the state has fluctuated over the last 10 years in North Carolina. Not only has the annual amount allocated to Macon County remained inconsistent, new legislation and state mandates also restrict the way local districts are allowed to spend state dollars.

One significant change to state funding over the last decade comes in the way funding for teaching positions are allocated annually. The state mandates how funding for teacher positions are funded. Rather than giving the district a specific amount of money to cover a specific number of positions, the state looks at Macon County Schools as a whole and provides funding for one teacher for about every 21 students. Macon County runs into the problem because in a rural district, classrooms aren’t put into blocks of 21 students, especially for Highlands and Nantahala Schools.

For the 2006-07 school year, the state’s initial allotment to Macon County Schools was $22,739,345. The county’s allocation for local current  expense was $5,792,001. The county also sent $700,000 to the school system for capital outlay expenditures. In 2007-08, both the state and county allocation to Macon County Schools’ increased; the state’s allocation increased to $23,649,259 and the county’s increased to just over $6 million. There was another increase in 2008 for both funding sources, with the state allocating $25,994,033 and the county allocating $6,911,000.

In addition to changing ways local district’s could spend funding, in 2008, the state issued a mandated discretionary reversion, which required the district to identify $174,039 out of their original allotment to return to the state. Discretionary reversions continued through 2012-13 when they reached $1,064,424 before the state eliminated them.

While the district was mandated to revert funds back to the state each year from 2008 until 2013, the state also yo-yoed on funding for Macon County schools. The low during the time period was $22,839,621 in 2009-2010 to the high of $25,352,107 in 2012-13. By the 2012-2013 school year, the county’s annual allocation had reached $6,911,00 to help offset the reversion and prepare for the uncertainty of the state funding.

In 2013-14, the state allocated $23,736,118 to Macon County Schools and the county’s budget increased to $7,338,330. Since 2013, the county’s allocation to the school system’s local current expense budget has remained the same and the state’s allocation has increased each year, reaching $25,148,879 as an initial allotment at the beginning of the current school year.

The county’s capital outlay budget to the school system has increased from $99,035 in 2013 to $300,000 this current school year with a proposal to increase the budget again in the coming year to $500,000.

The county’s budget allocation has fluctuated each year to reflect the state’s uncertainty in funding local district’s, something the school district hopes can be addressed through the resolution approved Monday night.

In addition to the capital outlay and local current expense budgets the county provides to Macon County Schools, the county also provides all teachers with a 2 percent supplement, which totals more than $400,000 annually. The county is also committed to significant debt service payments to cover the costs of the new schools constructed over the last decade.

With a three-year trend of increasing the state’s allocation to Macon County Schools, the county is looking at decreasing the school system’s current expense budget, to free up additional funds for capital outlay. The Board of Education and Macon County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposed budgets on Tuesday, May 31, beginning at 4 p.m. in a budget work session in the Macon County Commissioners Board Room located at the courthouse.

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