12/05/05 — Schools will try to find funds for raises

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Schools will try to find funds for raises

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 5, 2005 1:47 PM

Gov. Mike Easley's plan to bring public school teachers' salaries up to the national average means local school systems will foot the bill for the raise. Local officials say they will have until next fall to figure out how to pay for the increase.

Wayne County Public Schools is already struggling with money woes, said Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance.

"We go into the budget process not knowing what our funding will be," she said. "We have actually skinned it back as close as we can."

Easley's plan, unveiled in October, is designed to bring the teachers' salaries above the national average in 2008. It gave most educators a flat $525 raise for the rest of the current school year as a down payment toward the goal.

Teachers were to get the extra pay, which averaged out to $75 a month, starting Nov. 1. The governor was to work with the Legislature to give teachers a 5 percent raise over each of the next three years, which translates to $150 million annually.

Mrs. Barwick said the proposal affects all certified employees and varies in amount based on the educators' salary schedule. The $75 should be considered a base rate, with teachers who have a master's degree or are nationally certified to receive more.

Principals and assistant principals could also see a raise, the way the pay schedule is designed, she said.

The plan was to boost educators' base annual salaries by $750 for the year, but because the school year had already begun, clipped the initial amount down to $525, Mrs. Barwick said.

School systems would have had to come up with the additional money, she said. At the last-minute, however, word came that the state would pay for this year's raise.

"We're not worried about the salary issue at this point," she said. "When we begin the budget process in January/February, this will definitely have to be a part of it. It will definitely impact the local budget."

The school system has three main funding sources to draw from, Mrs. Barwick said - local, state, and federal. While federally paid teachers' salaries are funded through grants and Title I funds, and state funding for teachers is categorized and restrictive, the crunch will come from those paid through the local budget, Mrs. Barwick said. That means it will also affect annual supplements, paid on a percentage of the gross salaries.

"Those will be decisions we'll have to make," she said. "It will depend on funding from the commissioners. When we budgeted for the supplement this year, we asked for a 2 percent increase and got it."

The supplement request is about to get higher, based on the governor's plan for a 5 percent increase over each of the next three years.

"Cumulatively, that's a 15 percent salary raise," she said. "And we're leaving all the other employees behind."