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School board presents proposed budget to county

Beaufort County Schools on Monday presented “flat” local funding requests for the 2021-22 fiscal year to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

BCS currently receives $14,587,140 in expense funding from the county. The school system is requesting that same amount for the upcoming fiscal year. With an anticipated $250,000 in revenues from fines and forfeitures, a $45,000 sales tax refund and an appropriation of $100,000 from its general fund, the school system’s local projected budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 is $14,982,140.

“We anticipate using approximately $413,363 of our COVID funds to make this budget work,” said BCS Chief Financial Officer Willie Mack Carawan.

The school system is requesting a change in the way school board members are compensated. Currently, board members receive a per-meeting stipend. The chairperson receives $188 per meeting, and all other board members receive $132. With the proposed change in place, the school board would be paid on a monthly basis. The chairperson would receive $600 per month, and the other board members would receive $500 per month.

School board member Terry Williams said the change in payment doesn’t necessarily mean in increase in compensation — in fact, it could mean less compensation for board members if their calendar is busy enough.

The school board typically meets twice per month at minimum, but it has had a busy meeting schedule within the past year due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, the school board had logged 37 meetings within the past year. Using the per-meeting pay plan, the chairperson would make $6,956 for attending all of those 37 meetings. The $600-per-month stipend equates to $7,200 per year.

“If we have one or two more meetings, (the monthly rate) ends up being a decrease,” Williams said. “But rather than having to have people continue to count up how many meetings this month and do all the work, just pay us a flat fee and forget it. If we have more meetings and it’s less money, so be it.”

Beaufort County’s school board compensation rates are the lowest when compared to 19 other eastern North Carolina districts.

The school system’s funding request also accounts for a state-mandated retirement rate increase as well as a small increase in health insurance costs.

“We never know in any given year what legislators will give in raises to state teachers,” Carawan said. “We hear 5% to 6% for teachers, we hear 1% and 2% for classified staff.”

The proposed budget reflects what a 3% raise across the board would look like. That 3% raise would cost the district $163,425.

The school system’s projected capital outlay budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $1,340,695. That includes the same $1,115,695 capital outlay allocation BCS received from the county for the current fiscal year, as well as a fund balance appropriation of $225,000 for ongoing projects.

ESSER FUNDING

The school system will receive a projected $26,658,810 from the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund, which was established in the CARES Act. ESSER funds are earmarked to help districts prepare for, prevent and respond to COVID-19.

ESSER funding is divided into three groups. The ESSER 1 fund includes money that was allocated in the CARES Act, The ESSER II fund includes money that was appropriated in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, and ESSER III consists of supplemental funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act.

BCS received $1,947,239 from ESSER 1. The district plans to receive approximately $7,632,659 from ESSER II and $17,078,912 from ESSER III.