CMS says students impacted by county’s decision to withhold $56M from budget –


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says your child is impacted by Mecklenburg County’s decision to withhold $56 million from it’s budget.

The district said “funding reductions and holdbacks of this magnitude impact the classroom. Period. County funding is used to supplement what we receive in state and other funding sources. Many of the expenses paid with county funds cannot be paid with state funding, even if we had the funds available, which we do not.”

In addition, CMS sent out a list of frequently asked questions about the district’s budget and the process behind it.

Each question and answer from the district is listed below:

Q: Why doesn’t CMS share its plan to improve academic outcomes?

A: CMS has shared our 2024 strategic plan with the Board of County Commissioners as recently as May 4, 2021.

We began implementing this plan in 2018. Our plan addresses outcomes for all students. The Board of Education and CMS staff continue to fine-tune and revise our strategic plan in light of the impact of the pandemic. We look forward to sharing the results of this governance work at the appropriate time.

Q: Weren’t many of these problems pervasive pre-pandemic?

A: Disparities in educational outcomes for black and brown students have existed in Mecklenburg County and across the nation for decades, just as have disparities in housing, economic opportunity/wages and many other areas.

There are many underlying reasons for these gaps existing and widening, including factors beyond the control of public schools. Erosions over the past two-plus decades in the successful reforms enacted after the historic Swann decision 50 years ago are among the causes. Further inequities in housing, food insecurity, wage gaps and other factors that impact students in the 128 hours per week when they are not in the care of our schools also must be addressed.

The pandemic has magnified all of these factors. The school system cannot be looked upon in a vacuum when other community ills contribute to the difficulties of addressing educational outcomes.

Q: What is the projected enrollment number for next school year and how does this differ from recent enrollment numbers? How does this affect CMS’s per-pupil budget request to the County?

A: Projected student enrollment for CMS for FY2022 is 143,856 which is higher than the actual enrollment for FY2021 at 140,070.  It is important to note that while the FY2021 budget was based on a higher projected enrollment than actually materialized, the state held districts harmless at projected funding levels. CMS followed the state’s lead by retaining staff and maintaining planned allocations to schools to avoid disruption to classes. The district also provided additional support and avoided terminating employees in the midst of the pandemic.  To date, CMS has continued to employ staff and prevent layoffs, and furloughs.

The budget request for additional funding for next year is a prime example of how per pupil funding may increase year-over-year.  For example, salary and benefit increases for existing staff will increase the per pupil amount even without any change in enrollment. The request for operating costs for new schools and preventive maintenance for existing facilities is needed regardless of changes in enrollment.  The request for additional social and emotional support staffing represents an ongoing need to reduce the ratios of staffing to students to meet the needs of students – now more than ever – but was needed long before the pandemic and is also not impacted by the level of enrollment shifts this past year.  Bottom line, the budget is not built on a per pupil basis. Instead, the request is driven by and based on additional funding needs.

Q: County officials say their recommended budget contingency will not impact the classroom. CMS says it will – can you explain?

A: Funding reductions and holdbacks of this magnitude impact the classroom. Period.

County funding is used to supplement what we receive in state and other funding sources. Many of the expenses paid with county funds cannot be paid with state funding – even if we had the funds available, which we do not.  The recommended allocation completely eliminates the funding in several categories and decimates a few others so operating with this “holdback” of funding as outlined will be extremely problematic.

Local funding pays a portion of salaries for principals. For many assistant principals, entire salaries are locally funded. Another example: the county proposal reduces the budget for Finance and Human Resources by about half of the total planned local funding. Hiring and paying teachers, assistant teachers and other school-based staff are critical functions of these areas. Doing this work with significantly fewer staff will impact our classrooms.

Q: CMS says the funding gap is $81 million. The BOCC says they are funding at a higher rate than last year. What’s the reality?

A: With a $24.5 million portion of our total local funding request unfunded and the $56 million held in “restricted contingency,” we must prepare a budget as if our request is underfunded by about $81 million.

The recommended county budget allocation to CMS for next year is $526.9 million. This is actually only $2 million more than the prior year. However, the prior year allocation designated $4.1 million as one-time funding (for the system modernization project and preventive maintenance) so the base ongoing amount decreased to $520.8 million. Thus the increase referenced by the county manager as $6.1 million is from that lower base amount.

The county manager outlined the recommended allocation for the $6.1 million increase, but that leaves us with $24.5 million in identified needs that remain unfunded – some of which will likely be required to provide locally funded teachers and other staff the same salary and benefit increases mandated by the state and to cover the charter school pass-through cost. As a result, we must cut or downsize programs, put off facility maintenance efforts and delay hiring or reduce staff.

We cannot budget for the school year with a deficit, and it is not fiscally sound to consider $56 million in a “restricted contingency” funding as part of our planned spend for the year until it is released from restriction.

Q: Is the BOCC claim that some NC counties don’t receive county funding true?

A: All counties receive some level of funding support from their respective county.

Q: Why does CMS need $551 million of county funding when the district is receiving $500 million in federal COVID relief money?

A: Federal funding must be used in addition to, not in place of, annual state and local funding. The COVID-related federal funding has specific allowable uses that must be directly linked to the prevention of, reduction of or in response to COVID-19. Almost all components of our budget request for county funding are ongoing recurring expenses that existed prior to and will remain after the pandemic subsides.  The request does not include expenses incurred due to impacts of the pandemic, as those will be addressed with the COVID relief funding

Q: Can federal dollars identified in the CMS budget request be used to pay for maintenance expenses that CMS has sought from the county?

A: No. Federal funding must be used in addition to, not in place of annual state and local funding. The COVID-related federal funding has specific allowable uses that must be directly linked to the prevention of, reduction of, or in response to COVID-19. During the budget planning process, the list of facility needs was reviewed and items that are related to improving indoor air quality or reducing the spread of COVID-19 were identified to be included within the COVID-related…



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