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May 15, 2021

City Council fine-tunes budget, approves money for schools’ STEM initiative

SALISBURY — In the course of a nearly six-hour meeting, the Salisbury City Council and city staff worked through questions about the city budget for the next fiscal year.

Two items that the council discussed adding to the proposed budget were financing a new STEM teacher leadership program and increasing the Human Relations Council budget.

STEM program

Near the beginning of the meeting, City Manager Lane Bailey said Salisbury is unique in North Carolina in that it allotts money for its school system — Rowan-Salisbury Schools — every year.

This year, that amount was $65,000.

Bailey said that in a recent conversation with Superintendent Lynn Moody, she said the district might be asking for more next year.

Accompanied by Overton Elementary School Principal Candice Austin and Isenberg Elementary Principal Marvin Moore, Moody did just that, introducing the council to the idea of a STEM teacher-training program.

“We wanted to do more to support our teachers with STEM,” Moody said.

Moody and Austin said the district wants $26,200 more from city to fund a program that would train approximately 25 teachers from the four schools in the Salisbury district — Overton, Isenberg, Salisbury High and Knox Middle.

“It would create a team of teacher leaders that can be trained in STEM and receive a stipend to lead this initiative,” Austin said.

Austin and Moody said the approximately $3,200-per-teacher stipends included in the $26,200 would act as a reward for the teachers’ extra work and as compensation for their’ extra time.

“The most challenging work we have is to get people to invest in people,” Moody said.

Teachers interested in being trained for the STEM program would have to submit an application to prove they have a “desire to dig deeper into STEM,” Austin said.

“We want to make sure we select teacher leaders who are invested, who truly want to drive STEM leadership within the building,” Austin said.

Those teachers would then create a STEM-related curriculum that other teachers in the four-school Salisbury area would be able to use.

Councilman Brian Miller said he thinks education is the “most important economic development tool we have.” 

“And that goes to our focus on business development and starting new companies here,” Councilwoman Karen Alexander said. “So we’re very excited about STEM.”

The council agreed to allot the extra $26,200 for the program. The budget already included a $65,000 allotment for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, making for a total of $91,200.

Human Relations Council budget

Another topic was the Human Relations Council budget.

The city has been allotting $5,150 to it for the past three years.

Human Relations Manager Anne Little said the Human Relations Council met for its retreat June 2. After discussions  among members, Little said the council would be requesting $25,000 from the city this year.

“Based on the programming that our council would like to do for the future, they have asked that that amount be increased … mainly for the Martin Luther King celebration program and also to support a new subcommittee that is designed to host community forums, work on fair housing and also deal with community issues,” Little said.

Little also mentioned that the Covenant Community Connection and those associated with Let’s Get Connected day are asking for more funding.

In addition to the council’s contribution, HRC receives $5,000 from Rowan County and a varying amount from private donors for its annual budget.

Assistant City Manager Zack Kyle said the HRC budget has been $25,000 in total for the last few years because of outside donations.

Mayor Al Heggins said that means the city’s additional $20,000 contribution would almost double the council’s budget.

Nearly every council member said he or she would want to see a line-item budget of how the HRC plans to spend that $45,000 budget.

“That’s a big ask,” Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said.

The council agreed to add the $20,000 to the budget and to potentially amend the budget after the HRC makes a line-item presentation in the next few months.

The council is expected to vote on the budget at next week’s meeting, which will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 217 S. Main St.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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