GREENSBORO — Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras is recommending the district ask county commissioners to kick in more than $13 million to give raises to teachers and administrators next school year.
During a meeting Tuesday with the Guilford County Board of Education, she also recommended asking county leaders to increase pay for school nutrition workers by $1.9 million and to permanently fund a previously approved salary increase for bus drivers for $1.6 million. And she’d like to see the commissioners cover another almost $8.3 million for expected increased operating costs. (This paragraph has been updated to reflect a correction. See correction below, 11:49 a.m., 5/10/21)
That comes out to about $25 million more for the 2021-22 operating budget than the district received from the county for the current school year. The new budget year starts July 1.
If approved, that would be a bigger increase in funding from the commissioners for the annual operating budget than the district has either requested or received in at least the last couple of years, if not longer. The schools operating budget does not include expenses such as school construction, renovation and repair, which are budgeted separately.
Since last year’s budget season, the county Board of Commissioners has undergone a major political shift, with Democrats now in the majority. The county manager, who will make his own budget recommendations to the commissioners about funding for schools and the rest of the county, is also new to the job. Former county Budget Director Michael Halford started as county manager in January, replacing former County Manager Marty Lawing.
Contreras pitched the idea of a $10 million increase in local salary supplements for Guilford County Schools teachers as a start toward matching the salaries paid by the state’s two largest school districts.
Teacher salaries are mostly paid by the state, but local districts can add supplemental pay.
Over the last five years, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district increased its supplement by about 30% and Wake County by about 27%, according to the superintendent’s presentation. Meanwhile, Guilford County, the state’s third-largest district, increased its supplement by about 4%.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake are each supplementing the average teacher’s pay by about $9,000, as compared to nearly $5,000 for Guilford County Schools. Projections shared by Contreras during her presentation showed that if those pay trends continued, both districts would be giving more than double the supplemental pay on average per teacher than Guilford County by the 2023-24 school year.
However, if the pay trends continued but Guilford County increased salary supplements by $10 million each year for the next five years, the district would be on par with Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake by 2025-26. That’s what Contreras said she wants to see.
School board member Linda Welborn said she agrees that Guilford County needs to increase salary supplements. But as a parent of college students in Raleigh and Charlotte, she wondered whether striving to match those cities makes sense, given what she has observed are higher costs of living.
Maybe, she said, Guilford County is more comparable to Durham, which is giving about $7,400 per year in supplements, or Winston-Salem/Forsyth, which is offering about $5,600.
Contreras said teachers graduating from college are more likely to focus on salary rather than balancing in the cost of living. And not everyone who works in the Wake or Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools lives in Raleigh or Charlotte. Some commute, including from the Triad.
Moreover, Contreras said she thinks the district can save money it would later spend on remedial schooling by ensuring that more students have high-quality classroom teachers at the outset.
“Pay people what they are worth; get the best people in,” Contreras said, describing her preferred strategy.
Correction: Superintendent Sharon Contreras proposed asking commissioners to cover about $8.3 million for expected increased operating costs. That figure was incorrect in a earlier version of this story.
Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.