Yesterday I noted some questions I'd be asking going into the budget. As anticipated, technology and choice were so central to Superintendent Heath Morrison's plan that there's not a lot to add (read the CMS presentation here and my budget story here). Here's more on the other themes:
Raises: Morrison's plan reflects the 1 percent hike in Gov. Pat McCrory's plan. That would require coming up with $2.2 million in county money to ensure that 1 percent extends to county-paid staff. If CMS can persuade legislators to go higher, Morrison assured the public and the board he'll find money to increase the county match. For instance, if the state approves a 3 percent raise, CMS will need a total of $6.6 million in county money.
On the other hand, Morrison warned that it's possible the General Assembly could end up granting state employees no raise. He said if that happens, he's committed to ensuring all CMS employees get at least 1 percent -- which would require $7.9 million from the county.
Many school board members were still underwhelmed by 1 percent -- as I'm guessing a lot of CMS employees are. Morrison told them it wouldn't have been realistic to ask county commissioners to commit to covering a 3 percent raise, even if that meant assuming the state's responsibility. "If we proposed to do a full 3 percent (with county money), then basically that becomes our only ask," he told the board.
Cultural competence: There's nothing in the budget about cultural competence or racial equity, but Morrison said he plans to unveil a plan in the coming year. The cost won't be high enough to merit a budget breakout, he said. He said his effort will involve "a number of individuals and partners," with the possibility of outside money to cover some of the cost. He says he wants to hear from task forces studying cultural competence and African American males before making a decision: "The worst thing you can do is convene a task force and say, 'Here's the plan.' "
Bell schedules: Morrison insists that months of talks with parents and teachers who want bell schedules and bus routes changes haven't been wasted, even though none of the options they pondered made it into the 2013-14 budget. He lauded those people for working on solutions, but said all alternatives were too expensive and/or affected too many people to tackle this year. He noted that previous CMS leaders caught flak for making the original changes without consulting the people affected; "I don't want to do that again." In short, the answer is "not this year," but not necessarily "never."
Safety: There's no money in the 2013-14 budget for additional security staff or school resource officers. Morrison said that's because the city of Charlotte has shifted $2.7 million in costs for the existing police corps to CMS over the last two years. Council members are looking for ways to give CMS a break, and if that happens it might free up money to expand staffing.
Cuts: The plan includes $9 million in "reductions and redirections," including $1.6 million from eliminating 14 vacant central office jobs, $2.5 million from adjusting budgeted salaries and benefits to reflect the reality of what the current workforce is earning and $1 million to eliminate the contract for Thinkgate tests. Morrison said more savings may show up in his second year, as he continues working through CMS' processes and systems.