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April 15, 2021

School board dives into budget planning

SALISBURY — While teachers wrapped up some final errands and students enjoyed their first day of spring break, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Thursday wrestled with budget preparations.

During an all-day retreat at Wallace Educational Forum, the school system’s staff updated board members on the state of the budget and advised them about what they can anticipate in the future.

Carol Herndon, chief financial officer for the district, said spending is on track for the current fiscal year.

“It’s important that we be aligned and connected to our performance year to date,” she said.

For the 2017-18 year, Rowan-Salisbury Schools received $116.3 million in state funding, $41.1 million in local funding, $18 million in federal funding, and roughly $10.3 million from grants or other sources. The system also receives $5.4 million in capital funds.

According to Herndon, RSS has spent about $113.3 million of its $185.9 million budget.

But there are still several months to go, and schools have spent nearly all of the district’s capital budget.

“It is likely that we will overrun our maintenance budget for this year,” Herndon said

This year, she’s confident the district can cover the extra expenses, but Herndon warned that the practice is not sustainable. In the future, she said, the board likely will need to increase budgeted capital outlays.

And costs for the upcoming year are already climbing. Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said he has already received $8.2 million in capital needs requests from schools.

The requests cover everything from new paint to paving to asbestos removal. Most, however, are for flooring, heating and air conditioning, and new furniture.

“That seems to be the common requests through all our district,” Vann said.

The high request rate had some board members questioning if there is a better way to handle the need.

“If we go by flooring, we have $13 million in flooring. … I think we as a district have to totally rethink how we do construction,” board member Travis Allen said.

Allen suggested that the school system have construction crews on payroll that could handle simple projects, such as replacing flooring or repainting classrooms.

“We should have people that can do this work,” he said.

While the move could have upfront costs from hiring, it could ultimately “cut our expenses in half.”

“If we can be creative in our maintenance and our construction departments … we can do a lot of this ourselves. It requires breaking away from the norm,” he said.

The board discussed the possibility further, then discussed taking the idea to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

The board will hold a called meeting at 1 p.m. April 12 before its first budget deadline, April 18.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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