Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
With more than $1 million in funding coming from the CARES Act, Macon County Schools said that not only is the school system in a good financial position in the coming year – but they should be in a good position for the next two years.
The Macon County Board of Education discussed budget challenges during Monday night’s school board meeting at which point Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin informed board members that CARES Act funding – federal funding budgeted for relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic – would help the school system continue operating soundly over the next two years. Dr. Baldwin noted that the planning allotment for the federal funds – which are being distributed by the state – is more than $1 million and will be used over the next two years.
Statewide, $75 million was allocated for school nutrition programs, $70 million for summer learning programs and $30 million for local schools to purchase computers and other devices for students. Dr. Baldwin said the funds for computers and other devices from the CARES Act will take the place of the $275,000 in cuts to capital outlay on the county level with additional funding also budgeted for mental health services, which Dr. Baldwin said will likely cover the cost for employees to address mental health needs of students for at least the next two years.
While $275,000 was cut from the county’s capital outlay budget for the school system, the county intends to leave flat their allocation for the school board’s operating budget, which sits at $8.2 million.
Macon County Schools finance director Angie Cook said that the additional CARES Act funding will help offset revenue losses at around $20,000 that is generally allocated through federal timber fund sales as well as forfeitures and fines from the county.
One uncertainty in the school system’s budget surrounds pending legislation regarding K-3 classroom sizes. Over the last few years, the state has passed regulations regarding smaller classroom sizes, which has left districts across the state hard-pressed to fund the mandates. Dr. Baldwin said that while hopeful the state will once again delay the requirements, which would require Macon County to hire additional personnel, in the event they do not delay implementation, Macon County will likely be able to fund the positions out of existing funds.
North Carolina House Representative Kevin Corbin noted that the House proposed legislation to delay the K-3 classroom requirement, however, the measure did not get approval in the Senate, leaving the mandate on track for implementation this fall.