RANDOLPH COUNTY — In anticipation of the upcoming 2022-2023 fiscal year, departments in Randolph County continue this month to make their requests known to county commissioners.

Randolph County Schools Superintendent Stephen Gainey was recently before commissioners at a budget workshop with requests to mitigate losses he said have come with the loss of students to traditional and non-traditional charter schools. Per-pupil funding for the 15,093 students and 3,101 employees served by Randolph County Schools comes from multiple pools of funds, including dollars from the state and county budgets.

For the first time in Gainey’s tenure as superintendent, RCS is requesting less than $1 million for the fiscal year.

“Our total request tonight is $928,000 — $828,000 in current expense and $100,000 in capital outlay,” Gainey said. “I’m very proud that, again, this is my ninth budget and this is our smallest request in nine years. The previous low was $1,086,000 for 2021. I’m conservative by nature. I’m not going to ask for things we don’t need.”

Gainey said that the schools have adhered to a multi-year plan established years ago to drive costs down. The success of that plan, he said, has come in the face of many challenges. One of those challenges came in the form of charter schools, which now provide another alternative to public school systems.

Gainey said that RCS uses charter school growth money from the county government to mitigate the per-pupil financial hit sustained by losing state dollars when students depart for charter schools.

“We think we’ll lose 50 more students to charter schools this year,” Gainey said. “This year, we lost 45, and so we’re looking at a $74,000 increase in funding we need there. When kids leave us, they don’t always leave the same class or the same school. But the state’s watching. And when we lose about 24 kids, they pull a position from us.

“I don’t have a problem with not keeping the money if the child is not there, but I do have a problem with people assuming it’s a 1-to-1 dollar; it’s not. We lose 24 students, and they could have come from 24 different classrooms or 24 different schools, so which one loses the teacher position?”

Gainey expressed his appreciation for the county’s support financially that helps mitigate losses to charter schools. He explained that when a student goes to a virtual charter school, of which there are two in the state, the system loses $790. For losses to regular charter schools, it amounts to $1,479 per student.

Randolph County also has 201 students enrolled in charter schools in other counties. In sum, Gainey said $297,279 has gone out of the county to other charters.

Another difficulty the county’s school system continues to face is the rising cost of employee recruitment. In order to hire quality employees, it must compete with the private sector. The response has come in the form of a mandated pay increase in the previous fiscal year and the one to come.

“This year, we had to get everybody to $13 per hour,” Gainey said. “Next year, we have to get everybody to $15 per hour. … Our lowest-paid certified staff are already at $15.”

Gainey also gave an update on the new Trinity Middle School and the existing Wheatmore Middle School. He lauded the feeder program which will develop a pipeline for theater arts, band and athletic programs from the middle to high school level.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

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