Spending plan represents about 3% increase

 The Dare County Board of Education has unanimously adopted a $64.8 million spending plan for the 2019-2020 academic year, one that represents an overall increase of 2.86% over last year’s budget, maintains the same level of service and personnel, and also factors in a 3% state pay increase for staff.

      One highlight of the newly proposed budget is additional funding to launch the district’s fifth Dual Language Immersion program at First Flight Elementary School. First Flight is the last of the county’s elementary schools to implement the program in which students spend at least half their day immersed in instruction that integrates the Spanish language.

      “It’s a really exciting thing that is happening this year,” said Digital Communications Director Keith Parker of the program’s expansion. It will cost roughly $1 million in the coming year to fund 14 Dual Language Immersion teachers, as well as operations at the five schools. The price tag for next year’s program, $991,000 of which comes from the state, represents a 140% increase compared to last year’s cost.

      Also part of the budget is an additional $200,000 to fund Central Administration operations, an increase largely attributed to moving the Technology Director salary and 20% of the Human Resources salary under the Central Office budget for the first time this year. That office has been reorganized, Parker said, but he noted that the number of directors has not changed.

      And while $106,000 of local funding for the county’s Professional Development Program was cut, Parker said that more than $100,000 has been provided in programs throughout the budget to support professional development. According to budget documents, the state ceased funding staff development 11 years ago. As a result, conference attendance by teachers is mostly limited to required training unless it is funded by grants. Other online opportunities are also available.

      The district continues to put resources into technology to maintain its “one-to-one initiative” to provide every student in grades 3 to 12 with access to a chrome book, Parker noted. However, the budget also includes a $1.3 million reduction in funding for instructional supplies, partially due to two computer leases that expired during the 2018-2019 school year and a $500,000 cut in other supplies such as textbooks.

      Parker did not indicate what accounted for the cut in instructional supplies, but said that, based on spending trends from previous budgets, the proposed allocation for instructional supplies and textbooks is projected to fully fund the needs of schools and teachers.

      The Children with Special Needs Program will see an increase of $446,021 in funding this coming school year to support the 12.8% of district students in the program. According to the budget, the student population identified with special needs has increased by 22% since 2008. Staffing and resources for this program are largely determined by the number of students in the program, and this number can vary from year to year, Parker said.

      The transportation program also saw cuts to the tune of 12%, and was reduced to reflect actual expenditures in that program over the last few years. There were no changes to the funding for the district’s athletic programs.

      Dare County Schools is also slated to pay $79,290 for the 38 students who are enrolled in charter schools in the coming school year. That figure reflects a 65% increase in charter school enrollment among Dare County students over last year. According to school officials, 13 of those students attend Water’s Edge in Corolla and 25 are enrolled in virtual charter schools.

      Student fees, for items such as lunches, parking and laptop insurance, are slated to be maintained at the same level as last year with one exception. The district’s After School Enrichment Program will cost an additional $5 per week.

      Finally, the district’s undesignated fund balance, which acts as a rainy day fund of sorts, was at $956,866 in 2017-2018, shy of the Board of Education target of between $1 million and $1.5 million. During the 2016-2017 school year, it was at $1.2 million.

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Doc Carter

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