Members of the Watauga County Board of Education are visiting all eight of the K-8 schools to hear from principals about the needs at their schools and take a first-hand look at the condition of school buildings and grounds. The visits are one of the initial steps in preparing the Watauga County Schools (WCS) budget request for 2016-17.
“Our principals, teachers, and all of our leadership team are very appreciative that the Board is investing the time to come see and hear about the needs in our schools as we prepare to work on next year’s budget,” said WCS Supt. Dr. Scott Elliott. “It’s a great testimony to their dedication to this school system, and it provides them with a strong foundation for our budget discussions. Having a supportive and collegial Board of Education is a tremendous asset to our schools and I am grateful for that asset every day.”
Elliott also praised the Watauga County Commissioners for their strong support of the schools. “Our County leadership has been steadfast in their commitment to public education over the years and that commitment has been instrumental in the success of our schools. In fact, without their support, the challenges we have faced due to reduced state support over the last five to six years could well have become crises.”
School systems across NC have coped with reduced state funds on a per student basis since 2009 even as the economy has largely recovered from the Great Recession. The state ranks in the bottom 10 in the country in per capita funding for K-12 schools and in teacher pay.
In addition to the statewide need to increase pay for teachers and other school personnel, the WCS system faces the local challenge of funding the renewal of its 1:1 laptop program next year. A team led by Dr. Elliott and Technology Director Chris Devera has developed options for replacing the current laptops at less than one-half the cost of the current devices, which were acquired with a three year lease in 2013-14. However, even this greatly reduced cost would require significant additional funding from the County in next year’s budget.
School system officials met with the County Commissioners last Monday to present an initial overview of the need for school technology and other major items that are expected to be part of the 2016-17 budget request.
The school system also recently submitted a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to the County Commissioners. The CIP identifies needed school renovations and replacements with a total estimated cost of about $78 million over the next 10 years. While the school system has a nearly new state-of-the-art high school, most of the K-8 schools were originally constructed over 60 years ago and none are less than 20 years old.
The formal Watauga County Schools budget request for 2016-17 will be presented to the County Commissioners in April and the County is expected to adopt the new budget in June. County funds provide approximately 30% of revenues for the Watauga County Schools.