DAVIDSON COUNTY — A public hearing which extended the opportunity for residents to sound off on the budget for Davidson County’s 2023-24 fiscal year was largely devoid of criticism, as only Davidson County Schools Superintendent Emily Lipe offered input.
The sixth-year superintendent offered her support for the budget proposed by county staff earlier this month. No additional tax increase is expected, but financial support for the schools will see a bump.
Per-pupil funding in education is expected to increase from $1,304 to $1,347, or 3.3%. Total increases in education will result in nearly 4% more than the previous year. The proposed budget also includes an additional $500,000 for major capital renovations and repairs to educational facilities. Total local funding for major capital for all three school systems is listed at $4.3 million.
Lipe also updated commissioners on how DCS continues to execute its plan for spending federal dollars allocated in response to the pandemic, even as the expiration date on those funds approaches.
“We are especially grateful for the additional per-pupil funding you’re providing,” Lipe said. “As you know, (federal COVID-19) funding expires in September 2024. We are charged with planning for sustainability, as well as reverting to our pre-pandemic use of capital funds to tackle the issues that we’ve been allowed to use federal funds to address.”
Commissioners committed this year to provide additional capital to support necessary equipment for school resource officers. Staffing issues have cropped up throughout the state, but Davidson appears in better shape than most heading into the fall.
According to Lipe, the most recent North Carolina teacher retention report indicated that Davidson County is retaining a greater number of teachers and staff than surrounding counties, as well as districts around the state. It hasn’t completely alleviated concerns for the school system, however. Lipe said that the school board has provided targeted financial incentives for one year only designed to improve the retention of school employees.
“We continue to be faced with filling vacancies as we are met with the increasing number of teachers and other staff nearing the age of retirement,” Lipe said. “As we all know, this is becoming a greater challenge year after year due to staffing shortages experienced in all professions.”
The county will hold another budget workshop June 1, and commissioners are expected to vote to approve the final budget next month. Included in the budget are 32 new positions, most of which are concentrated in the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Department of Social Services.
A priority for the county this year has been the intention of the sheriff’s office to improve jail staffing, bringing staff-to-inmate ratios more in line with other counties, as well as to increase patrols. In total, 23 positions are projected to be added to the sheriff’s office, including seven SROs and four detention officers to be added mid-year, as well as 12 more by the end of the year.
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