County budget boosts schools

·4 min read

Jun. 18—GUILFORD COUNTY — The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday night to adopt its 2021-22 general fund budget, which provides Guilford County Schools more money than ever and maintains the property tax rate at 73.05 cents per $100 of valuation.

Vice Chair Carlvena Foster made the motion to adopt the budget with a number of adjustments from the $671.4 million proposal County Manager Michael Halford presented at the board's May 20 meeting.

"This budget has something for everybody in it," Foster said. "We may not have agreed on the entire budget, but I think it's very important that the public knows we worked together. We spent lots of time talking through this budget, making sure every district in the county and the school system was taken care of."

The changes Foster's motion recommended included a $3.5 million increase for a total operating and capital allocation of $229.6 million. That increase is intended to boost compensation for locally paid positions, increase teachers supplement funds by $8 million and allow a $15-per-hour minimum pay rate for cafeteria workers.

The county's Health and Human Services public health budget also was increased by $1.7 million to add 15 school nurses. The county's Infant Mortality Initiative allocation increased to $800,000 with an additional $468,000 in federal recovery money.

The amount allocated to economic development and community agencies increased by $185,000. Foster listed a number of groups to receive more funding, including several in High Point. Friends of John Coltrane was allotted $50,000. Forward High Point Foundation will receive $20,000. The Southwest Renewal Foundation's allocation increased by $25,000. Triad Adult Day Care of High Point will get $25,000 more. Carl Chavis YMCA will get $15,000 for non-personnel-related support.

Alan Perdue and Justin Conrad, the two Republican members of the Democratic majority board, noted the budget includes some things they didn't like but said they found it more beneficial than not. Conrad repeated his concerns over inflationary prices that may be ahead and said he hopes the county staff keeps that in mind.

Longtime board members Kay Cashion and Carolyn Coleman complimented the smooth and quick budget process. New board members Carly Cooke, James Upchurch and Mary Beth Murphy said they had learned during the budget process and were proud of what it will accomplish.

"I think the increase in our support for Guilford County Schools is truly historic," Murphy said. "In particular, our commitment to improving lives in our community by investing in increasing wages of our school nutrition staff, continuing that investment in our bus drivers and also, importantly, lifting all county employees to $15 an hour is significant. It's important in the way that it's going to be transformative for real people and real families in our community."

Chairman Skip Alston agreed the budget was a team approach from start to finish for board members and county staff. He said he didn't agree with everything in the budget either, but the give-and-take needed to reach a unanimous decision is part of the democratic process.

"Again, this was a team approach, and that's the way we have to move this county forward," Alston said. "We gave the schools some funds but our task now is to make sure we do even more for our community and our schools. We have to pass a $1.7 billion bond next year. We have to try to get that quarter-cent sales tax passed."

When residents advocated for schools, board members heard them, Alston said. Now a goal is to urge state legislators to pass language that will ensure voters support a quarter-cent sales tax for school debt. That $19 million the sales tax generates would go directly to schools and not involve the county board and its budget, Alston said. That money would help students and schools, which have been neglected too long, he said.

In other business, the board proclaimed June 19 as a day to celebrate Juneteenth in Guilford County. The board also approved an updated interlocal agreement with the city of High Point for fire protection of the Deep River Fire District and the Deep River Service District, effective July 1. — 336-888-3534 — @HPEcinde

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