PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Board of Education voted Monday to freeze teaching supplement spending at its current rate because of a gap between what’s available to spend and what would be …
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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Board of Education voted Monday to freeze teaching supplement spending at its current rate because of a gap between what’s available to spend and what would be required to meet the next increase.
The decision was made at the board’s annual mid-year retreat, held at the Chatham Park Conference Center, after CCS Superintendent Derrick Jordan explained that the district did not have enough money to cover the $850,000 extra needed for projected raises to the supplement in next year’s budget.
Supplements are often used as tools to recruit teachers to districts. Chatham finds itself in a particularly difficult place in recruitment, at least when it comes to salary — despite ranking 6th out of 115 districts in supplement, it is 5th of the 11 counties in its region.
The district and county had agreed on a plan to increase the percentages in various categories of experience and additional education over the next few years. But the projected shortfall has led the school board to freeze spending. Teachers will not see a decrease in their annual supplement, but will be paid the same supplement amount next school year as they were this year.
“We have proactively touched this multiple times, and this transition to a percentage of salary was born out of years of conversation even before it was implemented,” Jordan said. “That has to be a loud clear message, that we are happy about what we’ve done and we want to do more, but we’re not going to do more at the detriment of being able to do business.”
Each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts provide some sort of teacher supplement, an additional amount of salary on top of state-funded base pay. Each teacher and staff member is paid based on a state salary schedule that takes into account years worked and, in some cases, extra education or certifications. Supplements can be in the form of flat amounts or differ based on percentages and certifications and years in the field.
Two years ago, Chatham County Schools switched from a flat supplement to a percentage model based on number of years teaching and education level. For example, for the fiscal year 2018-2019, a first-year teacher received a 12 percent supplement, meaning they were paid 12 percent of their state-determined salary on top of their normal paycheck. A teacher with 18 years of experience and a master’s degree would get an additional 13.25 percent.
The model planned to increase percentages for many of the levels over the following years, but multiple school districts like Chatham have run into problems with these percentage-based supplements because of increases to the base salary pay at the state level. Jordan said the district wanted to “continue to remain competitive and continue have access to additional funding for things other than just the supplement,” but doing both would be difficult. The district has funds in its Fund Balance, a type of savings account, but the most recent audit report recommended that the district avoid using those funds.
Brief discussion was held Monday about asking the Chatham County government — which partially funds the school district, along with state and federal dollars — to use its Fund Balance to cover the gap and continue on with the predetermined supplement plan. But the board decided against that.
“We can always push forward, we know that,” said board Chairman Gary Leonard. “But do you push forward and hurt yourself for what we’re doing in the next few years? Our staff has been really pleased with the increase in supplement already. They also know that without a budget from the state it’s hard to budget anything right now. We need to be real careful in how we approach this.”
Local supplements are paid in two parts, one in November and one in June. Teachers received their supplements in November and will receive the second half, but next school year will see those supplement amounts remain the same, even if the state government increases teacher salaries.
“The hut’s not on fire,” Jordan said. “We’re not getting ready to be bankrupt or anywhere near. We are tasked with being proactively efficient.”
Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.