BY KARISSA MILLER

The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a $46.6 million budget for 2021-2022. The plan calls for a $1.2 million increase in spending, or 2.7 percent, over the current budget.

Before the adoption of the local budget, the board conducted a public hearing; no one spoke during the public hearing.

The budget includes funding to increase employee pay and takes steps toward restoring local pau supplement reductions made during the recession as well as providing additional support in the classroom.

“This is probably one of the best budgets we’ve had in many, many years for our employees,” said Superintendent Jeff James.

“That was one of the main goals for the board is to get money back into the classroom and in the pocket of our classified and certified employees,” he added.

I-SS administrators developed a schedule for trying to restore employee supplements. The budget committee recommended a transition from a percentage-based supplement to a flat-rate amount for certified employees. The cost is around $463,063.

Another budget recommendation is a change of the pay step frequency for classified employees to a two-step increase every three years. Currently, the pay step rate is a two-step increase every five years. The cost is around $270,500.

Bus drivers are also slated for a pay increase to $13.50 an hour. The estimated cost is $37,050.

The other budget focus is spending money in the classroom and on resources for students.
The budget committee recommended hiring 25 part-time Teacher Assistant for “high needs” elementary schools. The board is focused on closing third-grade reading gaps by bringing in additional help in some classrooms.

Under this budget, other highlights include:
• $12,000 for I-SS mechanics tool allowance
• $51,857 for an Interpreter
• $70,900 for maintenance increases
• $84,890 for online teaching stipend
• $84,932 for contracting substitutes
• $92,562 for an assistant principal position at Shepherd Elementary.
• $100,000 for legal fees.
• $245,040 for covering employee raises and benefit costs.
• $320,000 for reduced revenues that the I-SS budget is estimated to absorb.
• $498,355 for six nurses moved back to GEERS
• $664,365 for anticipated reductions in student population or Average Daily Membership. School officials have not received state ADM figures, but the above estimate is based on the district’s 2020-2021 ADM figures.
Other considerations

Board member Sam Kennington pointed out that this budget would be almost $3 million out of balance if the district wasn’t using CARES Act money.

“I’m very concerned about what are the nonrecurring expenses verses the occurring cost expense in the budget,” Kennington said.

Chief Finance Officer Melissa Wike said that she’s aware of the potential impacts and so is the administration on future budgets.

James explained that the district estimates it will add $2.2 million to the fund balance at the end of this year.

“So, even with this budget, we could possibly put another $800,000 in fund balance next year,” James said.

The superintendent also emphasized the importance of equilibrium when it comes to putting money into their fund balance or savings account.

“We don’t want to continue to put money in fund balance because that at some point will impact us with the county commissioners. Guarantee it. I’ve seen it in two other counties,” James said.

James said that $500,000 has been saved by reducing overheard in the central office and further savings will be realized when the district’s energy savings project is completed.

The budget request is due to the county commissioners on March 10.

According to James, the district has to present a budget proposal to the commissioners outlining the district’s budget and requests before May 15, 2021, according to state law.

“We are currently working to schedule a meeting before the May 15th date to do a proposal instead of handing them something,” James said.

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