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Commissioners seek data on teacher pay supplements

051019countybudgetworkshop

Pitt County Department of Social Services Director Jan Elliott reviews her budget requests with the Board of Commissioners on Thursday. Joining her is Angela Hart, left, the department's business officer.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 10, 2019

Pitt County commissioners will examine how increasing teacher supplements will affect the county tax rate during today’s budget workshop.

Officials with Pitt County Schools and Pitt Community College will present their budget requests when the Board of Commissioners reconvenes at 8:30 a.m. on the third day of workshops on the preliminary fiscal year 2019-20 county budget.

Commissioner Christopher Nunnally requested the county management team bring back information on how increasing the current pay supplement for teachers by various percentages would affect the county’s tax rate.

The Board of Education adopted a proposed budget on Monday that seeks to raise the teacher supplement to 7 percent with a goal of reaching a 10 percent supplement by fiscal year 2021-22.

Pitt County Schools now pays beginning teachers a 3 percent supplement and teachers with four years or more a 5.25 percent supplement.

While the state pays the salaries of North Carolina’s teachers, most communities supplement that pay with local dollars. Nunnally also asked staff to find out the amount of supplement paid by Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Wake and Mecklenburg school systems.

Documents presented to the commissioners earlier this week show a 7 percent supplement would would require an additional $2.36 million in funding. One cent of the county’s tax rate generates about $1.3 million so $2.36 million equals approximately 1.8 cents of the county tax rate.

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners is weighing a proposed 3-cent tax increase for its general fund and a 0.3-cent increase for its industrial development commission fund for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Thursday’s workshop featured presentations from the departments of public health and social services.

Public health

County Manager Scott Elliott has budgeted $11.6 million for public health but the agency’s interim director Amy Hattem said the organization needs slightly more than $12 million in the coming fiscal year.

Public health provides a wide ranging services to the community, including preventative health care for children and adults, health education, maintaining the county’s birth and death records and environmental health services including restaurant inspections, permitting septic systems, mosquito control and public swimming pool inspections.

Infant mortality prevention is going to be a top priority for the department because the county’s infant mortality rate remains higher than the state average. The rate among whites began to climb in 2010 before decreasing in a period between 2013-17. The infant mortality rate among African-Americans remains two to three times higher than whites, Hattem said, even though that rate has dropped in recent years.

Hattem requested $82,270 to continue funding outreach workers who perform home visits and connect minority mothers to services. Hattem said the positions were funded by grants but the money is no longer available.

Elliott said he didn’t include the positions in the budget because the commissioners’ policy in recent years has been that once a grant ends, the program ends and the positions go away.

Hattem also requested $135,948 to hire two new full-time nurses for an infant-postpartum home visiting program. She said data shows mothers who receive home visits are more likely to breastfeed, receive help for postpartum depression and take their babies to pediatricians for well-infant care.

She said that because the department will receive Medicaid payments for the visits, the positions eventually will repay the initial investment.

Hattem also requested $20,469 to fund a part-time dental assistant for Smile Safari dental program and $100,000 to renovate space inside the health department to change storage into work spaces.

Social services

“It’s probably not good for me but I want to support Amy’s budget,” said Social Services Director Jan Elliott, who is not related to the county manager. “Those nurses, those home visits are one of the preventions we have in child welfare.”

Nurses working with parents may prevent may prevent a case of shaken baby syndrome and other actions that put a child at risk for harm, she said.

“I hesitate to do that because it could impact my own budget,” she said.

Elliott requested $12.4 million from the commissioners; the county manager recommended a $11.49 million budget for social services.

The director sought an increase because she wants 24 new positions to work in the areas of guardianship, adult protective services and foster care. She’s also seeking additional space for offices and family visitations.

The county manager’s budget included four positions; two for reviewing reports in the department’s economic support services division, a coordinator to focus on training staff on and troubleshooting NCFAST, a computer program used to process applications to determine an individual’s eligibility for services and funding and an agent to focus on child support orders for foster children.

The bulk of the positions Jan Elliott requested were needed because of new requirements the state is placing on counties for determining Medicaid eligibility. Counties will be responsible for reimbursing the state if an error is made in qualifying individuals for Medicaid, she said.

Adult guardianship cases also have grown by 70 percent between fiscal year 2016-17 and the current fiscal year, Jan Elliott said. Half the growth occurred between October and January.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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