Cumberland County Schools employees could soon see a 4% increase in salary, pending approval by the county Board of Commissioners.
The Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a budget for the next fiscal year that includes a 4% raise for staff members. According to school officials, the raise is consistent with those previously approved by the North Carolina General Assembly.
The budget asks for an additional $3.8 million in county funding compared to last year’s budget, bringing the total allotment from the county to $88.1 million. County funding makes up about 16% of the school district’s total budget. A majority comes from the state, at 58%.
Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. did not speak about the budget at Tuesday evening’s meeting, but a school system news release issued after the meeting said a majority of the additional funding request is focused on investing in teachers, cost-of-living increases, anticipated legislative salary increases and a rise in operating expenses because of inflation.
“In CCS, we truly have ‘superheroes’ who go above and beyond to support the needs of the whole child,” Connelly said in the news release. “When we invest in our teachers, we are investing in their ability to provide the best education possible for our students. The success of our students is directly tied to the success of their teachers.”
Members of the Board of Education did not comment Tuesday before passing the budget on a unanimous vote.
The budget proposal now goes to the Board of Commissioners for approval. According to school officials, the proposed budget will be presented to the county commissioners by May 15. The commissioners will approve a budget for the next fiscal year in June.
Connelly said in the news release that the school district will need continued financial support from the county. To balance the proposed budget, school officials have earmarked more than $8.5 million, putting the unrestricted fund balance at approximately $14 million by the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“This path is not sustainable as the fund balance is one-time money and creates a significant deficiency, if it is continually relied upon to balance a budget,” Connelly said. “The long-term need resulting from mandated state salary increases is daunting and will require revenue enhancements from the county commissioners to sustain our premier professionals at the levels our students deserve.”
The district’s budget proposal comes amid a move by the state legislature that would set aside state funding to increase teacher salaries. If approved by the state legislature, the state budget would increase teacher salaries by 10.2% statewide over the next two years, The Raleigh News & Observer reported.
Stagnant wages, in part, have contributed to a teacher shortage across the state. Cumberland County is no exception as CCS faces a teacher shortage of over 150 as of February, CityView previously reported.
In a statement last week, Cumberland school officials said they welcome any funding that helps the district.
“Typically, as a public school district, we do not publicly comment on pending legislation,” the statement said. “However, we are closely following the budget process and certainly welcome budget increases that benefit public education. Once the state budget is approved, CCS will lay out a detailed plan on how the budget will be carried out in the district.”
Ben Sessoms covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at email@example.com.