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CHCCS and OCS experience funding disparities, special district tax plays part

CCHS story2.jpg

Northside Elementary School stands on Oct. 17, 2021. 

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools are both pushing for more state funding to meet growth in population, inflation and for salaries to recruit and retain teachers, administrators and staff. 

Jamezetta Bedford, the chairperson of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners said via email that North Carolina law mandates counties that have more than one district to provide the same per pupil funding for each district. However, data from North Carolina School Report Cards shows in per pupil spending between the two districts in Orange County. 

For the 2021 to 2022 school year, OCS received about $14,000 per pupil in funding. Roughly 52.5 percent of that funding came from the state, 35 percent came from local sources and 12.5 percent came from the federal government.

For the same school year, CHCCS received about $16,000 per pupil in funding. Approximately 44.9 percent of the funding came from the state, 46.2 percent came from local sources, and 8.93 percent came from the federal government.

While Orange County funds both districts the same, North Carolina school boards do not have taxing authority. Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents pay an extra school district tax since 1901, resulting in that extra $2,000 per pupil tax for CHCCS, according to CHCCS Chief Communications Officer Andy Jenks. 

CHCCS has more students to support, as there are approximately 7,000 students in OCS and over 11,400 in CHCCS.

“It's an additional tax that was instituted decades ago, that is part of property tax bills that residents in Chapel Hill and Carrboro pay, and it's dedicated specifically for the school system,” Jenks said.

Riza Jenkins, a CHCCS board member and chair of the board's Finance Facilities and Operation Committee, said that the per pupil numbers are higher in the district because of the tax.

“When the county reports that our per pupil is higher, we always like to say we have a special district tax.” Jenkins said. “That's a decision that the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro made.” 

CHCCS was able to spend about $6.7 million on supplies and materials for the year and about $1.8 million on instructional equipment — a total of 4.6 percent of its budget. 

OCS also spent about $6.7 million on supplies and materials, but only $219,855 on instructional equipment. This added up to 7 percent of the district's budget.

OCS has 13 total schools, and two of those schools are classified as low performing as defined by the N.C. General Assembly. CHCCS has 18 total schools, and zero of those schools were classified as low performing.

However, Jenkins said comparable districts often receive more funding. 

“We always like to remind people that in terms of similar districts in states across the country, we are on the lower end of per pupil funding,” Jenkins said.

According to a report from the Education Law Center, North Carolina ranks 50th in the country in school funding efforts and 48th in the nation in overall funding level.

"There is support from many regarding the Leandro case and the need for more state funding to meet growth in population, inflation, and for salaries to recruit and retain teachers, administrators and staff. Most districts have shortages in all of those categories," Bedford said in the email.

The Leandro case is a long-running fight over public school funding in the state. Most recently, the N.C. Supreme Court required a lower court to facilitate the distribution of funding to schools across the state.

CLARIFICATION: An original version of this article did not specify the student population sizes of OCS and CHCCS districts and included an unclear paraphrase from Bedford. The article has been updated to reflect that information.


@DTHCityState | 

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