Press release via Asheville City Schools
During its May 2 meeting, the Board approved the district’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget Request to Buncombe County Commissioners. In addition to asking the County for the projected revenue provided to the district, the Board approved two additional requests. These include increasing the Special Local Options Sales Tax up to 12¢ as well as adding an additional $600,000 to district funding specifically earmarked for Pre-K. In total, the district will be asking the Buncombe County Commissioners for $33,215,172 during its May 10 Budget Work Session.
If approved by the County Commissioners, this request will be used to meet local expenses as well as increases in the projected retirement rate from 22.89% to 24.19% and rise in employer hospitalization costs from $7,019 to $7,397 per employee as set by the North Carolina General Assembly. It would also cover the direct rise in local supplements occurring as a result of the State budget’s staff pay increases.
During the 2021-2022 school year, the district allocated $3.5 million from its local general fund, which has been steadily dwindling for years. A responsible general fund balance for a district of our size from year to year is around $5 million. Asheville City Schools began FY22 with a fund balance of $5,664,366. After allocating $3.5 million to pay for this year’s expenses, we anticipate only being left with $2.1 million for carryover. This means we would not be able to cover the same continuing expenses for the 2022-2023 school year.
Knowing this, Asheville City Schools’ initial request to the County Commissioners does not include utilizing any of our remaining fund balance for FY23. Instead, it calls upon strictly using funds from County General Fund 2, City Tax Fund 2, Sales Tax Fund 8 as well as includes an estimated collection of Fines & Forfeitures.
Additionally, it was determined that the County has asked the Board to come up with a three-year plan that ensures the district lives within the budget it receives. As shared during the April 4 Board Meeting, potential savings include reducing staff through attrition, reducing supplies and materials and reducing the number of Pre-K classes provided.
Unlike most school districts across Western North Carolina, for over 20 years, Asheville City Schools has NOT solely relied on tuition, grants and state/federal dollars. Past superintendents and school boards have voted to use dollars intended to support K-12 students for Pre-K students. In fact, since the 2016-2017 school year, we’ve spent $7,100,834.02 in local funds for the Preschool Program. That amount does NOT include what’s been spent for the current, 2021-2022, school year. However, as we’ve been delving deeper into our budget, it’s becoming clearer that continuing to allocate so much money, money that’s intended to go to our K-12 students, to expand Pre-K is no longer fiscally responsible.
Asheville City Schools is proud to partner with Buncombe County Commissioners and appreciates their continued support in educating our students. As we make our requests, please understand that, in order to continue to provide services that have set our district apart, this is the budget we need to operate. And, if it is not received, we’ll be forced to make added cuts.