Like other superintendents across the state, Dr. Eric Bracy waited to see what was coming down the pike from state legislators this week.
Now, it’s finally here. Gov. Pat McCrory said he’s going to sign a $21.25 billion state budget, after it was tentatively passed by the General Assembly.
It includes an increase in pay for teachers of roughly 7 percent, which is $282 million of the total budget. The increase is about $3,500 per teacher.
“Our teachers in Sampson County are some of the best and the brightest that I’ve ever seen,” Bracy said. “They deserve this increase and more. I hope this is the first step of having more increases for our teachers.”
The decision would make it the largest increase for teachers in the state and would move North Carolina from 46th to 32nd in the United States in teacher pay.
According to reports, teachers get raises ranging from 3 percent for the most senior educators to nearly 19 percent for those in their fifth year. School administrators will receive about $800 more while office workers and other non-certified staff receive $500.
In a news release McCrory said it’s a victory for the people of North Carolina.
“I laid out specific parameters throughout this process, including a significant pay increase for teachers, no reduction of teacher assistants, preservation of Medicaid eligibility standards and no tax increases, and this budget does just that,” McCrory stated about the fiscal plan. “I’d like to thank the dedicated staff and the General Assembly for the countless hours of work that was put into this budget.”
Although Bracy said he likes the increase, he stressed that there’s concern about teachers losing their longevity payments in a one-time disbursement.
“Usually you get longevity in a lump sum payment one time per year,” he said. “But now (it’s factored) into the teacher’s base salary.”
Another concern he has is teacher’s not receiving more payment for earning a master’s degree, if it’s not required for their job.
“If a new teacher works on a master’s in their field, they won’t get paid for it unless it’s required for the job,” he said. “I just wish there was some way we can still pay our teachers for working towards their master’s.”
The Sampson County Board of Commissioners approved its 2014-15 budget with a 4.5 cent property tax increase. That increase could mean more money for the county schools, based on a per student formula, but still not as much as the system initially requested.
“I’m curious to see how much it would be with the 4.5 cent tax increase,” Bracy said.
A proposed 5 percent cut across the board was also eliminated during county deliberations, bringing a sigh of relief to the superintendent.
“That would have been devastating,” he said. “We would have lost some staff.”
Bracy said he’ll be able to elaborate more about the impacts both budgets will have on the county system after looking at numbers and programs.
“You hear these numbers being thrown out by the state and you really want to know the effect it’s going to have on your district …,” Bracy said.