WEST JEFFERSON-North Carolina lawmakers may have missed their original state budget deadline by more than two months but, in the end, the budget was just what Ashe County Schools was hoping for.
That’s according to Todd Holden, Superintendent of Ashe County Schools, who said this week the proposed budget the North Carolina General Assembly considered this week will allow his district to keep all its teacher assistants and pay for local driver’s education classes for another two years.
It puts to rest two issues Holden said he’d worried about before the school year got underway.
Holden said he’d worried about both issues before the school year got underway.
“Those were two big snag points for Ashe County Schools,” Holden said. “We’ve not had an opportunity to really dive into the budget yet, but I do know they’ve funded driver’s education to the same level as last year, and we know we’ll be able to keep all our teacher assistants, and I couldn’t be happier about that.”
State senators voted along party lines Wednesday to pass the nearly $22 billion budget. The North Carolina House of Representatives took up the bill later in the week ahead of a Sept. 18, deadline.
And both chambers needed to pass a budget, and get Gov. Pat McCrory’s endorsement, by Friday or extend the temporary budget fix that has kept state government going since July 1, when the previous year’s budget expired.
Phyllis Yates, associate superintendent of Ashe County Schools, said the budget will keep the system from dipping into its fund balance – or tack on a $65 fee per student – to fund the roughly 175 students who will take driver’s education this school year.
It also means the district will hold on to all 29 teacher assistants at the county’s three elementary schools.
“Those assistants, they’re vital, absolutely vital to what happens in classrooms,” Holden said. “And it’s not just about the fact that they help teachers manage kids. They’re a big help in terms of instruction. Teachers and students are better off with those assistants in the classroom.”
Other budget highlights include:
•Reduces personal income tax from 5.75 percent in 2015 to 5.499 percent beginning in 2017.
•Frees up an additional $216 million annually that was being transferred from the state’s highway fund to the state’s general operating fund. That means more money available for road building and spends $705 million over two years for transportation needs.
•Increases early teacher pay $2,000 per year to $35,000 annually, while granting raises based on experience to teachers, assistant principals and principals among other state employees.
•Provides nearly $800 million over two years for Medicaid services based on enrollment and demand for services.
•Maintains the existing system for allocating sales tax revenue. Seventy-five percent is allocated based on the county where a sale takes place and 25 percent is based on population.