Dr. Morrison Announces Proposed 2014-2015 Operating Budget

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by WCCB Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dr. Heath Morrison, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, brought his proposed operating budget for 2014-2015 to the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. 

Dr. Morrison is advocating for at least a three percent raise for all district employees, increased academic choice and personalization for students, broadening support services for student and schools, and expanding literacy initiatives.

The proposed budget seeks $402.7 million in funding from Mecklenburg County, an increase of $46.2 million over the preceding year. The budget proposal includes $41.8 million in county funding to help cover salary increases, sustaining operations and growth, with $8.3 million for program expansion and new initiatives. These are offset by $4 million in reductions and redirections. 

“To continue to prepare every child for a brighter tomorrow, we must accelerate our level of investment in our students,” Dr. Morrison said. “Our educational landscape has changed over the past five years. Student enrollment has grown over six percent since 2008-09, outpacing our operating budget which has grown four percent. Increases in day-to-day operating costs have exceeded our operating budget growth, resulting in tough staffing and program cuts. Average per-pupil spending has dropped to 48th nationally.”

The superintendent also pointed to significant strides in academic achievement made by the district during the past five years.

“CMS students outperformed their peers in other urban schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and math,” he said. “Average SAT scores and the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses are on the rise. Dropout rates are declining and our graduation rates rose to a record high of 81 percent last year.”

Dr. Morrison said that making employee compensation more competitive was a very high priority because of the hard work done by employees that has led to increased achievement. He also said that surveys conducted by the district show broad community support for salary increases.

“Salaries for CMS employees have been stagnant – making it harder to attract and retain top talent for our students,” he said. “Meanwhile, the bar for academic achievement has been raised with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the implementation of Read to Achieve legislation. We will continue to advocate with the state to make salaries for our hardworking employees more competitive to the national average. We also need the support of our Mecklenburg County community to help make employee salaries more competitive locally no matter what the state chooses to do.”

Dr. Morrison’s proposed budget also includes funding for enrollment increases; the district expects to gain about 750 new students next year, continuing a trend of steady growth.

The budget proposal allocates $1.9 million in county funding to expand academic choices for students, as well as $1.6 million to provide a digital platform that will be used to further personalize instruction and learning for each student.

“Our families and our students have been clear in their support for increased academic choice and personalization,” he said.

Also included in the superintendent’s budget proposal are additional funds for increasing the support provided for students at school: $3.7 million in county funding to begin a four-year plan to provide more counselors, psychologists and social workers at schools, as well as additional supports for targeted schools.

The fourth area of priority is literacy in the early grades.

“To help our youngest learners build the foundation for later success, we are seeking $1.2 million in county money to provide intensive training to literacy teachers in grades one through three,” Dr. Morrison said. “This will complement our efforts to expand our Pre-K program, offer summer literacy camps for rising first- through third-graders and add more literacy materials in our classrooms.”

Dr. Morrison also noted that the costs of operation for CMS, including utilities, health insurance and increased enrollment, continue to rise.

“Everyone in Mecklenburg County benefits from strong public education,” he said. “Preparing our community’s children for a bright, prosperous future is one of the most important investments we can make. This budget is called the superintendent’s recommended budget but it is truly the community’s budget because it represents proactive outreach and intensive listening to our stakeholders. It reflects our dedication and commitment to the goal of educating every child, every day, for a better tomorrow.”

The 2014-2015 total proposed budget (all funding sources) is $1.29 billion, a 3.7% increase over the prior year.

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