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Sunday June 26th

Orange County Board of Education approves almost $40.5 million budget for 2022-23

<p>Orange County Schools Board of Education Chairperson Carrie Doyle listens to public comments during the board's meeting on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.</p>
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Orange County Schools Board of Education Chairperson Carrie Doyle listens to public comments during the board's meeting on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.

The Orange County Board of Education unanimously approved the district’s Local Operating Budget for the 2023 fiscal year in its meeting on Monday.

The budget totaled near $40.5 million — a $5.42 million increase from last year. This equates to $5,043 per pupil, which is a $676 increase from the 2021-2022 school year.

Over the past five years, OCS Chief Finance Officer Rhonda Rath said that federal funding for schools has increased by roughly 340 percent as a result of the infusion of COVID-19 funds.

North Carolina has increased its support by 14.5 percent, but local funding has only increased by about 6.9 percent. Rath noted that while the state has continued to fund necessary salary and benefit increases over the past several years, Orange County seems to be lagging behind.

OCS Superintendent Monique Felder introduced the budget discussion to the board and said the district is focusing on student wellbeing.

“As we continue to navigate this budget season, we are maintaining a laser-like focus on the whole child, our student achievement, the social and emotional wellbeing,” Felder said.

She said that in order to promote student success, it is important that all OCS staff — including bus drivers, child nutrition workers, custodians, teachers and principals — are appropriately compensated.

Rath presented updates to the original budget recommendation that was proposed in the March 7 board meeting.

The district also approved $1.1 million to account for staff salary increases and other continuation budget expenses. The funds accommodate a clause in the biennium state budget that included a 2.5 percent pay increase for school staff.

Rath added that it is a priority of the Board and superintendent to recognize the work of certified staff through supplements based on years of teaching experience. To fulfill this need, the district requested $651,000 in the budget.

A similar $1.2 million request was made for Master Pay, which would provide bonuses for certified staff who received a master's degree related to their current position.

OCS estimates that it will have a surplus of around $1.3 million from the 2022 fiscal year fund balance.

Rath recommended that the district allocate $660,000 from that surplus for recruitment bonuses for new staff in areas that have staffing difficulties. She also requested $500,000 be reserved to account for the economic impacts of inflation.

"The things that are on staff’s minds are the economic impacts that we really haven’t started to see yet as a result of inflation, of our increased prices and our increased gas prices,” Rath said.

The board also voted to allocate an estimated $30,000 in support of financial supplements for principals, including an additional amount based on the number of years of experience. The remaining funds — about $38,500 — will be used for bonuses for school-level nutrition workers.

Board member Bonnie Hauser voiced her desire to prioritize child nutrition workers’ pay, saying that she is worried the group is often overlooked.

“I’ve seen this board approve a lot more money on things that are less important than the people who are serving our kids every day,” she said. “And I have to say, I’d hate to see them get the scraps, I just think they do that all the time.”

The final 2023 fiscal year budget will next be presented to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for approval in August.

@madelynvanmeter

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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