Smithfield Herald

Johnston schools propose $65M budget

Johnston County schools need to spend $1.2 million more on teacher pay next fiscal year.

The spike in proposed spending stems largely from pay raises approved last summer by the General Assembly. The schools employ some teachers with county dollars and, by law, must match state raises.

In Johnston County, the average pay hike will be about 8 percent, according to Superintendent Ed Croom’s proposed 2015-16 budget. That will cost the district $366,000 more in salaries.

Johnston will also need about $815,000 more for teacher supplements. Like most other counties, Johnston supplements what the state pays its teachers. And because the supplements here are a percentage of base pay, they rise whenever the state raises teacher salaries.

Overall, Croom proposes $65.9 million in local spending on schools next year. That’s about $3.4 million more than this year.

Croom said parts of his budget will change as he gets more clarity on how much money Johnston will get from the state. For instance, it’s unclear if the state will continue funding driver’s education.

Starting July 1, the General Assembly plans to phase out the money it gives school systems for driver education. And since lawmakers aren’t allowing schools to drop the program, the planned cuts are forcing superintendents to find ways to make up the difference.

The state gives Johnston about $552,000 annually for driver’s education, an allotment that represents about 73 percent of the program’s cost here. Under state law, the district could increase the driver’s education fee from $55 to $65. However, that would cover only some of the lost state funding.

“The only way we can make that up is cutting something else out,” Croom said.

His proposed budget calls for about $1.1 million in new items, including about $400,000 to support virtual public charter schools.

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education approved two virtual public charter schools that can begin enrolling students this fall. Traditional school districts have to help pay the bill for local students who sign up. In his budget, Croom assumed about 500 students from Johnston County would enroll.

Croom included about $521,000 more in next year’s budget for regular charter school students who live in the county.

He presented the budget to the Johnston County Board of Education on April 14. The board could tweak Croom’s number before sending the spending request to County Commissioners.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

Price increase

The Johnston County Board of Education has approved a five-cent increase in the cost of elementary and middle school lunches. The change, which increases the price from $2.15 to $2.20, will go into effect next school year. School leaders say the increase is mandated under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.