DURHAM — The Durham school board pleaded its case before the Durham county commissioners Monday, explaining why it wants $4.8 million more in local money for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
We have nowhere else to turn but to you, said school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter, referring to cuts in state and federal funds to the school system.
County Manager Mike Ruffin has recommended against the increase in his proposed budget, proposing instead that the county serve as a backstop for the school systems fund balance up to $2.4 million. The fund balance is a reserve used to manage cash flow and pay for unforeseen expenses during the year.
Ruffin points to Durhams per pupil spending, which is the highest of North Carolinas 10 most populous school districts.
But Carter said the comparison does not take into account the nature of the student population in Durham, which includes 63 percent of students on free or reduced lunch, 20 percent academically or intellectually gifted, 14 percent who speak English as a second language, and 13 percent of students who are disabled.
State funding for these populations is capped below the level they occur in Durham Public Schools, leaving local funding to make up the difference.