Schools seek funds for raises, land

By Catharin Shepard • Editor • The Hoke County Board of Education voted Tuesday for a “wishlist” 2023-2024 local funding budget that included raises for the board, bus drivers, bus monitors and mechanics among others, plus $6 million to buy land for a future new school and $4 million for a new bus garage.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Shannon Register and Finance Officer Wannaa Chavis presented the budget to the school board during a workshop meeting Tuesday night. The budget asked county commissioners to increase per-pupil local funding from $625 per student to $725 per student for a total local contribution of about $6.8 million, up from $5.9 million last year; and will request a total of $11 million in local capital outlay.

The increase per pupil amounts to $950,000 based on a projected student enrollment of 9,500 students in 2023-2024, school officials said, with over 600 of those students enrolled in charter schools but still receiving money from Hoke County Schools. The $950,000 increase would go toward several things, including a raise for school bus drivers, bus monitors and mechanics of $2.75/hour. That would bring the lowest-paid to a minimum $18/hour salary, up from the current minimum of $15.25/hour.

The increase would also go toward covering anticipated increases in the cost of insurance and hospitalization paid for employees, and some higher costs elsewhere due to inflation, plus cost-of-living, officials said.

“Also we are proposing an increase for the governing body for stipends, travel, professional development, legal fees and the restructuring of the central office,” the documents said. “Additionally, we will increase the recruitment package in order to attract highly qualified and effective teachers.”

Exact numbers on current expense funds were not immediately available; an itemized breakdown for local current expense was not included in a version of the presentation from Tuesday night intended for county commissioners.

The capital outlay of $11 million included $6 million to buy land for a future new school; $4 million for a new bus garage; $570,000 for the one-to-one initiative that provides Chromebooks and iPads to all students; and $650,000 for a security camera upgrade at Hoke High.

The capital outlay budget also included funding for maintenance projects at county school buildings, including $75,000 for plumbing in the cafeteria at Scurlock Elementary, $200,000 for new flooring and shower walls in the locker rooms at East and West Hoke Middle, Several schools will receive roof restorations, including J.W. McLauchlin Elementary, West Hoke Elementary and Turlington Alternative. Other capital outlay items included funds for on-demand hot water heaters, a new phone system at Sandy Grove Middle and funds for water treatment system improvements.

The school local budget request was initially listed as an information item on the workshop meeting agenda. Board member Rosa McAllister-McRae made a motion to move the budget from information items to action items, then moved to approve the budget with the understanding that the district may also add a capital outlay item for improvements at Turlington Alternative School. 

The board approved the motion unanimously. The district will present the budget request to the county commissioners in May.

Additionally, the board approved plans to pay classified staff and office professionals their retention bonuses on April 27. The board last month tabled a proposal that would have paid out the bonuses April 21.

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