DPS Corner:Supporting students, teachers: Our budget proposal

Apr. 28, 2014 @ 10:54 AM

A school district’s budget is more than a stack of spreadsheets. It’s a statement of our values as school leaders, and our priorities for the children whom we serve.

The 2014-15 budget proposal we presented to the Durham Public Schools Board of Education last Thursday night makes our priority clear: we are making sure that our students and teachers come first. This staff proposal is just a step in the process. You will have the opportunity to share your feedback, and our school board will adopt a final budget recommendation to the County Commissioners in May. In bringing this proposal to our board, we focused on three key goals.

Impact on students and schools: Our children rely on strong schools to prepare them for careers, college and life. Almost two-thirds of our $408 million budget goes to instructional services: the people, technology and tools that support our students.

Teachers have the greatest impact on student success, while staff and administrators provide essential support. We propose giving each of our teachers a $500 bonus this year using one-time money. Next year, we will match an anticipated state salary increase of 2 percent for all DPS employees. We’re also maintaining our per-student allotments of teachers, staff and non-salary resources to our schools, plus we are budgeting for an additional 60 teaching positions.

Efficiency: While Durham County’s families entrust their children to us, our county’s residents generously entrust us with the financial resources to serve them. This year we are committed to making the best use of those resources. We are proposing to the DPS Board of Education that we can support our teachers and students next year without asking for increased funding from the County Commissioners. Through belt-tightening and careful use of our fund balance, we can absorb within our current resources our expected growth in student enrollment, increased operating expenses and charter school growth. We have identified $1.1 million in operating efficiencies for the 2014-15 budget year, and our work will continue.

Stewardship: It’s not enough to be efficient. We must also be clear and open about how we are using our funding to support our students and schools. This year’s budget document goes into much greater detail about our sources and uses of funding. We are reducing our dependence on lapsed salaries from vacant positions to balance the budget. We are reviewing all operational expenditures to maximize potential savings; this is a process that will accelerate over the coming year as we rely less on our fund balance.

We are proud of this budget proposal. It represents the hard work of principals and administrators in ensuring that our resources are used to the best benefit of our students, and it honors the hard work of our teachers and staff who make daily sacrifices on behalf of Durham’s children. We also want your feedback. You can find the budget at www.dpsnc.net/budget, where you can leave a comment online. We also invite you to speak at a public hearing at the school board’s budget work session on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Fuller Building Board Room at 511 Cleveland St. in downtown Durham. As much as these are our children’s schools, they are your schools as well. We want to hear from you.