Basnight reviews Dare County Schools budget challenges

Published 2:58 pm Monday, April 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

At the mid-April school board meeting, Dare County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight delivered his proposed budget for the 2024-2025 school year.

Dare’s Board of Education will meet for a budget workshop at 2 p.m. on April 30 at the board’s administration headquarters in Nags Head.

The proposed budget totals $74,745,820, with $1.19 million from appropriated fund balance used to balance the budget.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Dare County’s contribution will fund, among other items, 92.5 classroom teacher positions, an increase from 88.5 positions last year. A footnote states “instructional positions shows an increase due to the expiration of the ESSER funds.”

In his presentation to the school board, Basnight cited several challenges to putting the county’s education budget together:

– No planning allotments. This year the state’s Department of Public Instruction did away with planning allotments and told the systems across the state to use last year’s enrollment numbers. Previously, the state projected student population and allocated funding based on that projection. If the state overestimated student numbers, the school district would have to send back or revert the appropriate money.

– No ESSER funding. ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and was a $190 billion federal economic stimulus program created during the Coronavirus pandemic. The superintendent said in his presentation he is covering half of the funding loss with the above-mentioned fund balance. For the four Title I elementary schools, an instructional support position for each school will be covered with Title I funds.

– Dual language immersion growth. For next year, another grade level will be added at First Flight Elementary and the program expands to middle school. The bill from Participate Learning increased to $832,000.

– Children with disabilities. The state only funds 13% of average daily membership as students with disabilities. Dare County Schools has 149 students above the 13% funded level. Since December 2022, the students with disabilities membership increased by 37 students. Budgeted for fiscal year 2022 was $4.3 million. Budgeted for fiscal year 2024 was $5.5 million. Anticipated for fiscal year 2025 is almost $5.8 million.

– Increase in substitutes filling positions daily and long-term. The presentation has this information:

FY 2022: 4,266 daily jobs cost $1,002,898.51

FY 2023: 4,828 daily jobs cost $1,258,190.63

FY 2024 through March: 4,556 daily jobs (three months remain) $808,062.95

– Increasing food costs to vendors are being passed to Child Nutrition. ESSER funds were used to supplement school lunches and equipment needs. Non-paid student lunch debt is in excess of $20,000 each year. Basnight said there’s no option but to look to increase lunch prices.

– Vendors for goods and services are passing increases along to Dare County Schools. “Everything is costing more,” said Basnight.

– Teacher and classified employee pay. At mid-April, Dare’s average local teacher supplement of $4,620 ranked 48th in the state and below state average. Classified employees are paid with no local adjustment. In fall 2023, teachers received an average 4% pay raise over two years. The state’s beginning teacher salary is $39,000 and expected to rise to $41,000 in FY 2025.

– Employee health insurance rises. For next fiscal year, the employer contribution increased by 7.12%. Dare County Schools does not have figures for families or other plans, but anticipates a similar increase.

Basnight is naturally ebullient. He’s proud of Dare County Schools staff and its commitment to students. The system has 500 certified staff members and 300 classified staffers. Those employees take care of and teach 5,000 students.

Basnight is also proud of student accomplishment. For example, for the first time, all three high schools in the county averaged above 19 on the ACT. That’s the magic number for admission to any North Carolina university. “Fantastic,” called out Basnight.

Basnight celebrates student achievement in regional and statewide competition. His budget this year increased funding for the arts and he proposes to maintain that increase.

Career and technical education has grown. In FY 2023, 2,694 students received industry-recognized credentials. That was an increase of 521 students from the previous year.

All three high schools have major building projects happening. At Cape Hatteras Secondary, a class is converting a school bus to a recreational vehicle. At First Flight, students are building an airplane on the site of the Wright Brothers’ feat. At Manteo, students are building a boat.

Basnight summed up his presentation with “it’s about students.”