05/04/04 — School board seeks raises for teachers

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School board seeks raises for teachers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 4, 2004 2:00 PM

The Board of Education approved its budget Monday night and plans to ask the county commissioners to raise the teacher supplemental pay from 3.5 percent to 6 percent.

The board also passed an expansion budget to be funded by local and state money.

The budget has to be submitted to the county commissioners by May 15.

Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent, said the additional teacher supplement is necessary to keep pace with neighboring school systems. The supplement is an additional amount paid by counties to supplement state salaries.

"We have to up our supplement in some way," he said. "The bottom line is we do lose some teachers just because of money.

"It's important to attract teachers; it's also important to retain them."

Pitt and Wilson counties each have a 5 percent supplement; Johnston County schools range from 6 to 9 percent; Clinton city schools are at 9 percent.

"We're not competitive at all," said board member Lehman Smith.

Board member George Moye said he would like to see it increased to 10 percent, but it can't happen if the funding isn't approved by commissioners.

Board member Rick Pridgen said it would be wise to keep pace with surrounding counties.

"If we do request it, either as part of or in addition to the budget, I think the commissioners need to know how far behind the eight ball we are," he said. "There are other counties around us that are in just as bad shape economically as Wayne County, but they're paying their teachers more."

Board member Thelma Smith agreed that the supplement is important.

"I don't want to see it lost in the budget," she said. "We need to let the county commissioners and citizens see that we're really serious about it."

Moye said the 5 percent increase the board is seeking for its budget for instruction items represents $763,000, and the additional supplement would mean a $1.5 million increase.

In past years, the school system has also received an annual 5 percent increase in spending on items other than construction from commissioners, but last year was turned down. The board hopes that will not be the case this year.

"The local budget has been built around the 5 percent increase from the county commissioners," said Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance.

The amount requested from the county is $16 million, an increase of $762,924 from the previous year.

Taylor said the past few years have been tough on the school system, requiring as much as $3 million in cuts. The return of low wealth funding to Wayne County will be a big help toward expanding the budget, he said.

Low wealth funding is provided by the state through a formula that takes into account the county's poverty level and tax rate.

Ms. Barwick said she expects the school system to receive 100 percent of its portion even though there has been no official word on the amount.

"That's a moving target," she said. "We can't even get the Department of Public Instruction to give us a roundabout number, but we're pretty confident that $350,000 will be available."

That money will be used to pay for science kits, health textbooks, a program to accommodate NCWise and long-distance learning, and will provide salaries for a health educator at Goldsboro High School, a grant writer and lead teacher, and a computer technician.

Four items on the expansion budget will be paid from local sources. At the top of the list, for $75,000, are band uniforms for Eastern Wayne High School.

Ms. Barwick said that high schools are in rotation for band uniforms and last year the school system deferred the plan because of budget constraints. Including it in the 2004-2005 budget will get the routine back on track.

Other items were $20,200, a travel expense increase of $500 each for principals and assistant principals; $4,061 for a postage increase to schools of $1.50 per child; and a $10,000 increase to the World View Travel program.

An additional $650,000 was also approved to support the school system's computer lease program. That amount will be transferred from the capital building fund.

Following a work session earlier in the day, the board also approved a timeline for its priority list of construction projects, as requested by the commissioners.

Divided into four phases that will run from 2005-2008, it is contingent on approval by the commissioners and funding from a proposed bond referendum.

Calling it an "aggressive and rigorous plan," Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said several projects would be done simultaneously and could start as early as January.

"It all depends on how the money comes in," said board Chairman Pete Gurley.

Board member Shirley Sims said she was concerned about the public's perception of the construction plan as it relates to the teacher supplement.

"Construction is separate and apart from this," she said. "We can't take that money and use it for teacher salaries, and we can't use money from programs for construction."