Durham News

Durham school budget would give all teachers a $500 bonus

The Durham school board plans to pay all classroom teachers a one-time $500 bonus and not ask the county commissioners for any more money next school year than it got this year.

The proposed Durham Public Schools budget is nearly $408 million. That is $15 million less than this year’s budget, a 3.5 percent decrease due to some grants and bond-funded capital projects ending.

The district also plans to add 60 additional teaching positions to handle expected enrollment growth.

The $500 bonuses will come from the district’s current $10.9 million fund balance or savings account, which had more money than the board originally thought after a miscommunication between previous superintendent Eric Becoats Jr. and the board last year.

Becoats told the board in 2013 that the system had only $4 million in unassigned fund balance, far less than the typical $16 million it has normally kept in the account to help offset state budget cuts.

Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter asked the county commissioners last June to make up for the shortage. The commissioners allocated another $2.4 million, raising taxes to do so. But an audit later revealed the schools had $15 million more in unassigned fund balance than reported.

Becoats resigned not long after in December.

Board member Omega Curtis Parker disagreed with only giving classroom teachers the $500 increase. She said any employee who teaches should receive the $500, including media coordinators. Board member Frederick Davis agreed and said funding only classroom teachers could prove divisive.

District officials will go back and look at possibly addressing all employees.

The budget also proposes that all other employees, not classroom teachers, receive a 2 percent increase locally to match what the state is expected to propose.

The district expects about 600 additional students next year, with about half going to charter schools. Typically, Durham Public Schools pays charter schools about $15 million every year. The funding is expected to increase $715,000. A new charter is slated to open in August, which will make 11 charters in Durham serving about 5,000 students.

Board member Nancy Cox said as a tax payer she disagrees with the district funding charter schools with small populations.

“I don’t know that I feel comfortable asking the district to absorb those costs,” Cox said.

Cox proposed that the board asks county commissioners for those funds. Further discussions will take place at a later date.