NHC Board of Education passes budget recommendations, positions will be cut

New Hanover County passes budget recommendations, positions will be cut
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Tonight the New Hanover County Board of Education heard another budget recommendation from their financial staff, and gave approval to that plan.

It was approved 5-2, with the dissenting votes being Stephanie Walker and Judy Justice.

After hours of debate the school board approved the recommendations, which lowers the minimum wage from their originally proposed $17 an hour to a minimum of $15 an hour. An additional one percent step increase will be added for every year of teaching experience.

The school board originally asked county commissioners for additional funding so they could raise salaries to $17 an hour, but that didn’t happen. If they stuck with that original plan, they would’ve had to cut over 200 positions from the school system.

In Tuesday night’s approved plan, the school system would only have to cut 136 jobs. They were already going to have to cut 82 of those positions due to losing ESSER funds, or COVID-19 emergency funds. Now, they’ll have to cut 54 more jobs in the next 2 years with this plan.

New Hanover County hopes that those cut positions will come from vacancies and their turnover rate within the school system.

Board members spent hours arguing over the proposed recommendations, citing a lack of communication for the situation they’re in.

“They deserve better from all of us elected officials,” said Board Member Judy Justice. “Not just a school board, but the county commissioners. They have been coming to us for years now. Telling us how hard it is to live on what you’re paying, and then the pandemic hit, and it got even worse. And you know, if they can make $19, $20 now delivering for Dominos, why should they work for $14, $15 an hour?”

Board Chair Stephanie Kraybill voted in favor of the budget recommendations, saying it feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders now that they have something to go off of.

“To get the the $17 plus a 1% step, there was no way we were getting there without having to cut positions,” she said. “And I think people really started to think about that. And I think we all started to think 27 out of 4000 people is doable.”

Justice says, she thinks this budget will negatively impact staffing in the county.

“The sad part is it takes years to get the skill and ability, the talent and the professionalism to work with kids,” she said. “It also takes a commitment. I’m afraid these people that will come in in August, will be less committed to the profession. And because of that, our kids, our school systems gonna suffer.”

Board members that voted in favor of the budget all agreed that something needed to be approved before the meeting ended so that the financial staff could move forward.

The budget recommendations aren’t final. The school system’s finance staff will return next month in front of the board to give updated numbers based on tonight’s recommendations. The board will have a chance to give their final approval at the next meeting on July 12th.

If for some reason it is not approved, a resolution was passed last month to operate with the current year’s budget until a new one can be drafted.

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