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TC County Commissioners

Synopsis of April 8, 2024 TC Board of Commissioners Meeting

by Herschel Johnson

The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners held their regularly scheduled meeting in their chambers at 4:00 PM on Monday, April 8, 2024. The primary purpose was the Transylvania County School (TCS) system FY25 budget request. County departments were given guidance to limit budget increases to 2-3%. The school system is requesting a 19% increase.

Public Comments

The opening public comment session was dominated by three Democrat speakers either deriding the Board of Commissioners for their performance, urging them to fix the schools, or urging them to expand Pre-K. The three were clearly coordinated.

Opening Comments from Dr. Lisa Fletcher

Dr. Lisa Fletcher, TCS Superintendent, presented the proposed FY25 budget. The Transylvania fiscal year (FY) starts on July 1 and ends on June 30. FY25 starts July 1. The system is the largest county employer and serves 3,334 students, Pre-K through 12th grade. Transylvania County ranks 4th in NC for education spending per pupil.

Dr. Fletcher’s good news regarding TCS ranking within the state:

  • #5 for best teachers

  • #15 for best places to teach

  • #6 for students achieving Career and Technical Education (CTE) accreditation

  • Every traditional school has met or exceeded student growth goals (competencies)

  • All FY 23-24 capital items completed or near completion by June 30

The school system receives funding from local, state, and federal sources. The county provides all the local funding.

TCS is categorized as a ‘small county’ system. The enrollment limit to qualify is 3,300 grade 1 – 12 students. This enables the county to annually receive $1,548,200 in state funds. 99% of this fund is used for salaries.

State-Mandated Raises and Benefits ($529,910)

The state has mandated a 3% raise and employee benefit rates. This will require $529,910 in FY25.

Dr. Fletcher presented the FY25 local funding requests. TCS is requesting a 19% increase. This is primarily due to replacing the use of temporary COVID Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grants. This was a temporary federal grant to ensure students did not lose out on learning due to the lockdown. The funded areas are the Pre-K program, counselors, and a Dropout Specialist.

Pre-K Program ($589,490)

TCS currently conducts two Pre-K classes serving 102 students. Temporary COVID grants were used to fund two classroom facilities and teachers at an annual cost of $270.000. There is a waiting list of 159 students. The county wants to add three more Pre-K classes. The annual funding for those classroom facilities and teachers is $319,490.

Counselors ($412,910)

TCS used temporary ESSER (COVID) grants to fund two counselor positions. The original intent was to address anticipated student mental health issues due to the lockdown. There has been a measurable positive impact. These counselors also perform a wide range of duties outside of mental health. They are considered to be invaluable. The annual cost for these two counselors is $165,164. The funding expires on June 30. This has never been a budget line item.

TCS would like to expand the program by adding three counselors. This will provide system-wide coverage. The annual cost is $247,746. This has never been a budget line item.

Dropout Specialist ($90,878)

TCS used temporary ESSER (COVID) grants to fund a Dropout Specialist. Chronic absenteeism had dropped significantly, especially at Brevard High School which led the state. Dr. Fletcher reminded everybody that Transylvania now has a Truancy Court due to this problem. She said that students did not want to return to school after the lockdown. There is much work to be done across the county. This has never been a budget line item.

Miscellaneous Expenses ($500,000)

TCS is budgeting $500,000 to cover miscellaneous expenses such as utilities, school resource offices, school nurses, copier costs, insurance, legal, etc. This is a normal budget line item.

State-Mandated Charter School Transfers Increase ($361,577)

The state mandates all school systems to transfer 10% of funding to charter schools. TCS will transfer $1.4M in FY24. The increased FY25 budget will require an additional $361,577 to be transferred.

Post-Presentation Discussion with the Board of Commissioners

The County Commissioners made it clear that they support these student initiatives. They reiterated that Transylvania County ranks 4th in NC for per-pupil spending.

The commissioners were troubled that the school system has been using temporary ESSER (COVID) grants for permanent positions and capabilities since 2021. They acknowledge that regardless of their final decision, they will be criticized. The county manager, Jamie Laughter, estimated a 4 to 5 cent increase in property taxes to pay for a 19% budget increase. Commissioner McCall stressed the impact of this increase on already struggling county residents.

The superintendent acknowledged that communications and coordination can be improved. She lauded the joint capital project work group. She suggested that she will give the commissioners a quarterly update on school system operations and budget.

The County Commissioners will decide on this budget soon.

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