School funding is a two-part discussion
The CMS operating budget pays the cost of teaching students, transporting them to and from school, feeding them breakfast and lunch, and maintaining school buildings and grounds. It funds programs such as magnet schools and summer schools. It also pays for training teachers and other staff, and paying their health and pension benefits.
There are two basic types of funding that CMS receives – operating and capital funds. These types of funding are very different, but equally important.
The operating budget includes expenses such as salaries and benefits, utilities and transportation. The operating budget is the one district staff refers to when they are talking about the budget that pays for the day-to-day expenses for running the district. It includes a mix of county, state and federal funds. Generally, when people refer to the CMS annual budget, they are talking about the operating budget.
The capital budget pays for the design and construction of new schools, expansion of existing schools and major renovation and replacement of older facilities to meet educational standards. Capital expenses are paid by bonds. Voters authorize the state or county to borrow money. Bond obligations are then repaid over a number of years through taxes. Capital expenses are not part of the CMS operating budget.
CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath E. Morrison, department heads, managers and school leaders work together to develop a budget that is presented to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The Board discusses, reviews and amends the budget before approving a final version, which is then sent to the Board of County Commissioners. The county commissioners may make additional adjustments to the funding level before they approve the budget.
CMS’ budget can be affected by several factors, including the following:
The economy. In difficult financial times, funding can be tight from local, state and federal sources.
Enrollment. As enrollment increases, the resources and personnel to meet the needs of all CMS students may also increase.
New initiatives that support goals and objectives of Strategic Plan 2014, including Strategic Staffing and programs to increase the district’s graduation rate.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education does not have taxing authority, so it has to ask the county commission for funds each year. County revenues come from several different sources, including property taxes on homes and businesses, county sales taxes and fees. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has resulted in less revenue for the county. That means there are fewer dollars available for local agencies, departments and programs, such as the library system and CMS.
Each year, North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction divides funds among all 212 school districts in North Carolina, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Each district’s allocation is based on the number of students, special needs of the district, income level, and other factors. Most state funding is categorical, meaning it must be used for specific programs. Nationally, North Carolina ranks 42nd in current per-pupil expenditure. The state average is $8,743 per student. CMS ranks 68th in per-pupil spending in North Carolina, because the state funding formula skews toward smaller districts.
CMS is the state’s second-largest district. Other school districts with large numbers of students are also near the bottom of the list, while Hyde County – a district with a small student population – is at the top. Many of the state’s formulas provide a base amount of funds to every district, regardless of size. This base amount represents less per pupil in larger districts. Also, some small districts get special funding supplements.
CMS per pupil spending - $8, 523
Almost all federal funds are earmarked for very specific programs. CMS is expected to receive $185 million in federal funding and grants for the 2010-2011 school year. Some of the federal funds, such as Title I, are allocated based on formulas reflecting the makeup of the CMS student population. For other resources, the school district must submit competitive grant applications. Federal funds also go to the district’s Child Nutrition program, which provides free or reduced-price meals to children in need. This program is not included in the CMS operating budget.
2009-2010 federal funding for CMS*
Breakdown of where some of the federal funds are allocated:
Exceptional Children Services $51 million
State Stabilization $38.1 million
Title I (economically disadvantaged students) $38.4 million
Bright Beginnings PreK Program $18.8 million
Improving Teacher Quality $7 million
Education Jobs Fund $5.2 million
English as a Second Language $2.6 million
TIF-LEAP Program $2.5 million
*CMS received $63 million in ARRA funding for the 2009-2010 school year, which is included as part of the federal funding source.
2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
CMS received $131.5 million from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 and 2010, also called stimulus funding. Much of the ARRA‐related money was designed for uses consistent with Title I (economically disadvantaged students) and students with special needs. The 2011-2012 budget includes $76.3 million in ARRA funds, a portion of which was carried over from 2009-2010.