SNOW HILL – Local schools will see another $500,000 for textbooks and classroom materials, although no funding has been added to the schools budget.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted 5-2 to move $565,000 from instructional salaries, which includes teachers, counselors, and educational assistants, to the materials of instruction category.
While the County Commissioners voted to approve the Maintenance of Effort schools budget during a budget work session last week, they retained the right to move money between the 13 spending categories in the school budget.
The school board cannot later move money between categories without the permission of the County Commissioners.
The textbook and materials of instruction budget was cut by the Worcester County Board of Education during that body’s budget process this winter.
“That wasn’t our idea,” said Commissioner Bobby Cowger.
Commissioner Bud Church, a 10-year school board veteran, voiced concern that the contract between the teachers union and the schools precludes any change in teacher salaries after May 1.
“After May 1, they can’t eliminate teacher salaries, change teacher salaries or cut teacher salaries,” said Church.
The reduction of instructional salary funding does not mean that current teachers would see a change in pay, just that the schools cannot hire new people, said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.
“We’re not taking it from working teachers,” he said.
Church said he did not know what the objective was in moving the funding, saying that it could have been to force the schools to hire fewer teachers.
The commissioners previously agreed that money for materials of instruction, which also includes library books and supplies for the vocational high school, needed to be added back in, said Shockley.
“Why are we changing the categories when they have presented a budget they want to work with?” Church said.
Citizens at the public budget hearing said they wanted the money for materials of instruction added back in, Shockley said.
“We didn’t all agree. That was a recommendation,” said Church.
An average of 40 teachers retire or leave on their own every year, Boggs said.
“They’re still hiring,” said Church.
“They’re replacing. All they can’t replace is half a million dollars, that’s it,” said Gulyas.
According to the schools staff, Worcester County has a student teacher ration of 11:1.
The schools probably realize they don’t have to hire more, Boggs said.
Church made a sudden motion to fund the Board of Education categories as submitted, with no movement of funds.
“They’re elected officials. They spent a huge amount of time working on the budget,” said Church.
“I can’t go along with it,” said Boggs.
“How’re they going to teach?” said Gulyas.
Cowger suggested splitting the difference.
The other commissioners held firm on putting the cut money back in.
“They can come back if short on a category,” said Shockley.
“We’re sending a message to the Board of Education on what the taxpayers wanted,” said Gulyas.
Cowger suggested cutting something from every category.
“I say leave it alone. Let them work it out,” said Gulyas.
Every year, the Board of Education comes before the County Commissioners asking to transfer funds between categories. Any changes needed can be dealt with later, said Boggs.
The board already decided against filling 10 positions, and at least 30 teachers have decided to retire or move on.
“They’re really not going to lose anything,” said Gulyas.
The schools hire through the summer, Shockley said, which gives school board staff time to review the category change, and a chance to ask for money to be moved.
“They do it all the time. It can still be done,” Shockley said. “They can come in and we’ll talk about it.”
Boggs voted against the move, but only because she was opposed to the Maintenance of Effort budget approved during the previous week’s budget work session.
“It would not be appropriate for me to vote for this now,” said Boggs.
Church also voted against moving the $565,000 from instructional salaries into materials of instruction.
“We shouldn’t be micromanaging the Board of Education,” said Church.