Durham News

Durham schools make full-budget case

You can tell county leaders what you think Monday night about the proposed 2015-16 budget, including a Durham Public Schools appropriation that’s $6 million less than the school board has asked for.

School officials and board members made their case for their full request, $7.8 million more than they got this year, during a budget work session last week.

School Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter called the request “crucial to helping our schools become stronger.”

County Manager Wendell Davis has proposed a $564 million budget, 2.5 percent higher than the current fiscal year.

His proposal includes $152.2 million for DPS’ ongoing expenses, capital costs and debt service on school bonds. That’s a $1.8 million, or 1.24 percent, increase over 2014-15.

The school board has asked for $158.2 million, $7.8 million above this year’s appropriation.

Davis’ increase covers a projected enrollment increase of 590 students next year. It does not, though, cover pay raises and supplements the school board asked for, and retaining 33 teaching positions.

No current teachers would lose their jobs, Superintendent Bert L’Homme said, but some might shift into different positions at different schools if those positions are lost.

The pay supplements are meant for teachers who put in extra hours with student extracurricular organizations.

“We do have to support people who go the extra mile,” commissioners Chairman Michael Page said.

The school board’s planned budget totals $415.5 million, including state and federal funding as well as county, including pay for 4,753 employees. County funds cover pay for 1,002 of those, including 397 teachers.

To balance its budget, L’Homme said, the board cut 42 positions in the central office and clerical staffs in anticipation of cuts in Durham’s state appropriation.

L’Homme said it may be July before the schools know what their state funding will be for the year.

Commissioners gave no indication whether they might adjust Davis’ proposed schools appropriation.

‘Disparaging remarks’

During their meeting with the commissioners, school board members also took exception to Davis’ remarks during his budget presentation that, while Durham spends more per pupil than five other metropolitan systems in North Carolina, Durham’s third- and fifth-grade end-of-year test scores are the lowest.

“Durham is an outlier compared with these supposed peer counties,” said Carter, with a predominantly minority student population and higher rates of poverty.

“Poverty is the harbinger of many disadvantages that affect learning,” Carter said, and DPS needs extra money to deal with them.

Davis’s “disparaging statements ... sound as if they came from legislators in Raleigh,” she said.

“Our schools are making steady progress ... student performance is making steady improvement,” Carter said. “We need additional funding from the county or cut services.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

Have your say

Durham County Commissioners hold a public hearing on the 2015-16 county budget at 7 p.m. Monday, June 8, in the commissioners’ chamber at 200 E. Main St.

County Manager Wendell Davis has proposed a 564.12 million spending plan for the county. For budget information, see nando.com/1c5 and nando.com/1c6. The Durham Public Schools’ planned budget is available at nando.com/1c7.