Schools seek twice proposed county funding increase

Denise Patterson at Buncombe County Commission meeting
MORE, PLEASE: Asheville City Schools Superintendent Denise Patterson speaks on her system's $2.09 million request for increased county funding at a May 7 special meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Photo by Virginia Daffron

By third grade, North Carolina students are supposed to have mastered the principles of multiplication and comparing numbers. Those students could thus understand the problem local schools posed to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at a May 7 special meeting.

While the county’s current proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 includes nearly $3.6 million in new education funding, the total new requests presented by A-B Tech, Asheville City and Buncombe County schools came to roughly $8.16 million — well over twice the county’s plan. That figure includes $1.06 million more for A-B Tech, $2.09 million for the city schools and $5.01 million in increased funding for the county system.

A-B Tech, said President Dennis King, expects to have spent over $1.2 million of its cash reserves by the end of June, leaving the institution with only an estimated $70,000 on hand. The college requires more county support for ongoing maintenance and operations, he explained, including $437,000 in phone bills the General Assembly recently decided will no longer be the state’s responsibility.

Tony Baldwin, superintendent for Buncombe County Schools, said recurring personnel costs were his system’s greatest need. State-proposed pay increases of 5% for certified employees and 3% for noncertified employees, as well as higher retirement and health insurance contributions, totaled nearly $3.72 million. While the General Assembly hasn’t yet passed its final budget for the next fiscal year, he added, projected “diminished” funding levels would require over $728,000 in extra local money to keep 20 instructional assistants.

“This is not just unique to Buncombe County; you’re seeing this across the state,” Baldwin said. “In some of the eastern systems, assistants have been eliminated.”

Baldwin also asked for $567,000 in new funding to pay for seven behavioral support specialists. “If I brought every one of our principals in this room and I asked them what is the No. 1 concern that they have, the most significant need, they’re going to come to you with behavioral health,” he said.

Asheville City Schools sought money for mental health support as well, with a request of $515,000. Other major items, explained Superintendent Denise Patterson, included $280,000 for four core subject teachers at the Montford North Star Academy and $225,000 for two teachers and two assistants at Asheville Primary School.

However, Patterson provided less detail about the school system’s requests for capital expenditures. Her presentation included no numbers in association with “critical” projects such as a hot water system at Asheville Primary, elevator replacement at Vance Elementary School and wall repairs at Claxton Elementary School. In response to a question from Commissioner Joe Belcher, she confirmed that none of those projects were included in the proposed $2.09 million funding increase.

Both Patterson and Baldwin noted that public schools are experiencing declines in enrollment due to the increased popularity of home schooling, charter schools and private education. “We have to advertise and sell ourselves and market ourselves,” said Patterson. “Our team will be meeting to consider what other efforts we can do to retain our students.”

Commissioner Al Whitesides encouraged Patterson to step up her efforts on student retention, as well as the system’s worst-in-state racial academic achievement disparities. “If we keep going the way we’re going, 10 years, 15 years [from now], we may not have Asheville City Schools,” he said.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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7 thoughts on “Schools seek twice proposed county funding increase

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Al, it’s time for ACS to be consolidated years ago! HOW many millions of taxpayer $$$ can be SAVED per year with a modern efficient ALL ONE school system for ALL the children. ACS spending $16000 per head per year is an OUTRAGE that taxpayer should revolt over!

  2. Emily

    I’d like to know how much of Dr. Patterson’s budget is allocated to screens. There is a MAJOR push in ACS for kids as young as 5 to be using screens in the classroom, despite there being little to no scientific, peer reviewed studies showing that screen usage is an effective teaching tool. In fact, there are lots of studies showing the damage and danger of screen usage for teaching. Screen Schooled and Reset Your Child’s Brain are two books that provide a lot of great information on this.

  3. K Smith

    Why are Asheville City and Buncombe County two separate school systems? That seems very inefficient on the surface.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      It is an outrageous inefficiency on the part of two antiquated systems, the city council and the county commission. Who will answer this question:

      How many millions of taxpayer dollars can be saved PER YEAR by efficient and equitable school system consolidation??? WHY will no one proceed to answer this question? Email this question to all the city and county non leaders that you can do!

  4. C-Law

    If they really cared they’d spend at least $90,000 a year per head! It’s all about the show, not the results anyway, and besides it’s just money…let’s just click the button and create fiat out of thin air? Seems to work for the .gov

    Livin’ at the end of the Yankee Empire…great seats, wonder how the 3rd Acts ends!? ha!

  5. Tiddley

    Yo, isn’t ABTech way down in enrollment and revenue and cutting programs and personnel?

  6. Enlightened Enigma

    ACS’ refusal to commit to consolidation makes them an EVIL force in AVL… the people who run this are elitist exclusionaries wasting tax money on TWO separate school systems…. DEMAND consolidation NOW !!!

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