Macon County manager Derek Roland presented his 2021-22 budget proposal to county leaders Tuesday night during. Roland’s proposed budget keeps the county’s tax rate of .374 flat and totals $54,641,096.
While the majority of county departments kept their budget requests flat — Macon County Schools requested an additional $1.6 million for additional school personnel for art, music, nurses, and mental health. Macon County Manager Derek Roland noted that his budget proposal does not currently include those positions as he believes such a directive would need to come from commissioners.
“The school system requested $1,610,323 in additional funding for personnel related expenses in the FY22’ current expense budget,” said Roland. “Although this request has not been included in the FY 22’ Recommended Budget, its omission does not appear to adversely impact the current level of service provided by the Macon County School System. Furthermore, an increase of this magnitude into an area that is the responsibility of the State of North Carolina is not a decision that can be made by administration in the absence of direction from the Macon County Board of Commissioners.”
Local funding for Macon County School System operations and teacher supplement remained at$8,732,731 in Roland’s proposed FY 22’.
“While this level of funding is consistent with the prior fiscal year, a projected decrease in Average Daily Membership of 34 students to 4,454 in FY 22’ will increase local current expense funding per ADM from $1,946 in FY 21’ to $1,961 in FY 22’.,” said Roland. “The proposed funding level for school system current expense is above the FY 21’ state average ($1,958/ADM) as well as the FY 21’ regional average ($1,641/ADM) NCACC Budget and Tax Survey 2021. Since FY 18’, funding for current expense and teacher supplement has increased by $1,115,000 or 14.6 percent. Revenue to sustain this increase was generated through a $.018 increase to the ad-valorem tax rate in FY 20’.”
In addition to current expense and teacher supplement appropriation, $349,796 is budgeted in the FY22’ Health Department Budget to administer the School Nurse Program. The School Nurse Program currently has five nurses yielding a nurse to student ratio of 1:898 at the projected FY 22’ ADM.
“In FY 20’, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the average nurse to student ratio in the State of North Carolina to be at 1:1,000,” said Roland.”Two bills, HB347 and HB348, have been introduced in the House of Representatives that would place a school nurse in every public school in the state at the cost of $102M in annual recurring funds. In light of the aforementioned circumstances the request for 5 additional school nurse positions has not been included in the FY 22’ Recommended Budget.”
The School System requested 10 additional mental health professionals in the FY 22’ Budget at a recurring cost of $820,893. The request would bring the total number of mental health professionals in the Macon County School System to 20 according to the School System FY 21-22’ Personnel Request.
“While this request has not been included in the FY 22’ Recommended Budget, access to mental health services for students will improve in the coming fiscal year following action at the state and local level,” said Roland. “At the time of this budget message, it appears that the State of North Carolina will become more involved with mental health in schools. SB161, which has been included in the State Budget, appropriates $1 million from the general fund to the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the existing statewide telepsychiatry program into public schools. The bill, which goes into effect July 1, 2021, will help schools across Western North Carolina get students the mental health services they need.”
Macon County recently received notification that funding from the North Carolina Office of Rural Health will again be awarded in FY 22’ for continuation of the School Based Health Center. The Health Department, through this grant, provides the schools with two full time behavioral health specialists and a contracted nurse practitioner to assist with preventative health care and behavioral health services for school-aged children.
While the additional personnel requests were not included in Roland’s budget proposal, he did restore the district capital outlay line item to pre-pamdemic levels.
“Since FY 18’ the annual appropriation for Technology and Capital Outlay has increased by $550,000 or 92%,” said Roland. “At the projected FY22’ ADM of 4,454 the annual capital outlay appropriation is representative of $258/ADM, well above the FY 21’ state and regional average of $166/ADM and $174/ADM respectively NCACC Budget and Tax Survey 2021.”
In addition to the annual technology and capital outlay appropriation, the Macon County annual budget makes the annual principal and interest payment on $32,387,907 in outstanding School System Debt. In FY 21’, the annual debt service payment for schools was $3,422,772. In FY 23’ the annual debt service for School System Debt will increase to $3,874,236 as the first principal and second interest payment for the Macon Middle School Renovation Project will come due.”
The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund was established to address the impact that COVID-19 has and continues to have on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.
Macon County has received approximately $5.8M through rounds 1&2 of ESSR funding and is projected to receive $10.5M in round 3 following the General Assembly’s appropriation of these funds.
The Macon County Board of Commissioners will meet again June 3 at 4 p.m. to meet with the Board of Education and other department heads to discuss the budget.