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Answers To Your Frequently Asked Finance Questions

October 19, 2021 

As part of the October 19th Special Called Work Session Board Brief, two pieces of information were shared pertaining to the current complex budget issues we're facing. 

BUDGET:

Georgia Harvey, Chief Finance Officer, also gave a presentation about the district’s budget process. 

She explained that Asheville City Schools’ funding sources include:   

  • Revenue directly from the federal government 
  • Federal revenues that are passed through the State 
  • Per pupil revenue provided by the State 
  • Asheville City Schools’ Local Option Sales Tax, which can be used for both local current expenses or capital improvements 
  • The School Capital Fund Commission’s Article 39 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements based on approval by the Commission
  • The School Capital Fund Article 40/42 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements and/or fixed assets
  • Additional tax allotments based on our county’s population size 
  • Lottery proceeds, which can only be used on capital improvements with approval from the County Commission and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction 

And, since Spring 2021, the district has saved over $500,000 in unreplaced Central Office Administrative positions, approximately $200,000 in operational service contracts and, to date, approximately  $250,000 as departments have reviewed their budgets, eliminating unnecessary expenses.  

Harvey also laid out a typical Board Review of budget reductions, which could include: 

  • Baseline budgeting from the prior year’s actual expenditures
  • Identifying non-essential programs/services that can be eliminated or reduced without reducing staff
  • A “hiring freeze,” which is a process to closely examine all new positions and vacancies and only fill essential positions that directly impact student instruction 
  • Separating recurring expenses from one-time or temporarily funded positions based on their source 
  • Analyzing facilities and their potential student capacity, with the possibility of the consolidation of facilities 

However, she explained that it will ultimately be up to the Board to determine next steps based on their established district priorities. 

The Asheville City Schools Budget Resolution was also unanimously approved by the Board of Education during tonight's meeting. 

ENROLLMENT:

In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made regarding each school’s historical & current enrollment, the current student capacity at each school based on staffing and the current percentage of white students & students of color at each school. 

  • As of Tuesday, October 19th, Asheville City Schools has 4,143 students enrolled in Kindergarten - 12th Grade.  
  • The district’s potential student capacity across all schools is 4,652.  This means we currently have 509 available spots. 
    • This number has been determined based on the amount of staff we could potentially have in each building as well as by adjusting our local caps.
      • Currently, the General Assembly has created a maximum number of students that should be in each classroom for Kindergarten - 3rd Grade, and Asheville City Schools has set a local cap for 4th - 12th Grade.  To support an increase in student capacity, the local classroom cap for core instruction could be raised to 25 students in Grades 4 - 8. 
    • At this time, Asheville City Schools is currently accepting out-of-district applications for students in 1st - 8th Grade.  We are not accepting applications for out-of-district students in Grades 9 - 12 due to staff availability.  For more information about our enrollment process, click here
  • A racial breakdown of our current student population can be found below: 

The Board of Education will be hosting its next Special Called Work Session on October 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


October 8, 2021 

Good Morning Students, Staff and Families.  This is James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, and Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, with an update about our district. 

As a follow-up to Monday’s communication that addressed HIL Consultant’s Financial Analysis, we would like to provide additional information about the complex budget issues we’re facing. 

1) Has the Board taken action on any of the recommendations from HIL Consultants?  

  • Monday’s Work Session was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  At this time, no action has been taken.
  • Staff and the Board of Education will be reviewing this information and accepting public input before any decisions are made.  
  • The district is also waiting on a final State budget from the General Assembly. 
  • Again, at this time, Asheville City Schools has not begun a hiring freeze or begun the consolidation of schools and programs.  
  • However, the district is reviewing all outside service contracts and all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  This began in Summer 2021 and is a practice the district is continuing. 

2) Based on the recommendations, will staff members lose their jobs? 

  • If the Board of Education chooses to accept the recommendation of implementing a hiring freeze, all current staff members will keep their positions.  Their recommendation is to not rehire positions as employees leave the district or retire unless absolutely essential.  According to Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, essential positions are those that directly impact student instruction.  

3) Why can’t Asheville City Schools just ask Buncombe County Government for additional funding? 

  • Per General Statute 115C-430, the County is required to fund both Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools in proportion to their number of students that attend school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership.  Based on our enrollment numbers, Asheville City Schools typically receives about 15% of Buncombe County Schools’ ask.  If Buncombe County Government gave Asheville City Schools additional funding they would proportionally have to also give Buncombe County Schools funding based on their ADM percentage.  

4) How much lottery funding does Asheville City Schools currently have access to? 

  • Lottery proceeds for public schools in Buncombe County are split by State law between Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools.  Currently, Asheville City Schools’ available lottery funding totals approximately $1.2 million for capital use only.  Only the State can designate lottery funds for non-capital uses. 
  • In short, lottery funds are NOT a source of discretionary funds.  Neither Asheville City Schools nor Buncombe County Government can budget lottery funds to cover specific operational costs.  At this time (and in alignment with North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Annual Report) Asheville City Schools’ lottery funding can only be used for the following types of projects:
    • Purchase of land for public school buildings
    • Planning/Design fees for public school buildings
    • Construction of public school buildings
    • Renovation of public school buildings
    • Enlargement of / additions to public school buildings
    • Repair of public school buildings (beyond general maintenance)
    • School technology [from corporate tax fund (ADM Fund) allocations only].
  • And, before Asheville City Schools is able to use their allotted lottery funding on capital improvements, the district must submit an application and receive approval from the County Commissioners. 

5) Is Asheville City Schools currently accepting out-of-district students? 

  • At this time, Asheville City Schools is unable to accommodate requests for out-of-district students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade due to State class size restrictions and available staff. 
  • We are also unable to accommodate out-of-district 9th - 12th Graders due to staff availability. 
  • However, we are accepting out-of-district applications for students in Grades 2 - 8.  If you would like to learn more about the enrollment process, please click here.  

6) Why does Asheville City Schools charge a tuition fee for out-of-district students? 

  • Each family that lives within the district pays an additional supplemental tax which goes to Asheville City Schools.  The district’s tuition rate was put in place to help offset the revenue lost by not receiving the supplemental tax proceeds.  The tuition rate does NOT match the tax rate and is in fact lower.  In short, out-of-district students bring fewer dollars to the district than in-district students. 
  • Asheville City Schools’ tuition rate is $300 each year for Buncombe County residents, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling, and $1,200 each year for residents that live outside of Buncombe County, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling.

7) Does Asheville City Schools know where families are going that leave the district? 

  • Yes.  As shared by Deputy Superintendent Melissa Hedt during the October 4th Work Session, over the past three months, 466 students have withdrawn from the district.  The three most common reasons include transferring to Buncombe County Schools, transferring to a North Carolina private school and transferring to a North Carolina charter school.  We invite you to read the full report here
  • Currently, 634 students that live in the Buncombe County School district attend Asheville City Schools. 

8) Can Asheville City Schools add properties to the school district? 

  • In order to add a property to the Asheville City Schools district, Buncombe County Schools must agree to the transfer.  If a property is transferred, Buncombe County Schools would lose all State and local funding associated with students living at that property moving forward because the money would move with the child. 

9) Has the Central Office done anything to cut its expenses? 

  • As part of the 2021-2022 budget, all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures. 
  • Through attrition, the Central Office staffing budget has been cut by more than $500,000 over the past year.  And, two Central Office employees have plans to retire within the next two months; neither position will be refilled, with their roles and responsibilities shifting to current Central Office employees. 

To learn more, we invite you to attend the Board’s next Regular Meeting on Monday, October 11th at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  We will also be holding Special Called Budget Workshops on October 19th and 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  All meetings can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


October 4, 2021 

Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with an important update. 

“As a follow-up to our May Budget Presentation, I asked Mrs. Harvey to contact HIL Consultants to complete a financial analysis of the district,” said Asheville City Board of Education Chair James Carter. 

In response to this request, HIL Consultants presented on the district’s current budget and the projected Fund Balance, which is the amount we have in reserve in case of an emergency, for both the 2021-2022 school year and moving forward during tonight’s Work Session

In their findings, HIL Consultants shared the underlying issues with our declining revenues, specifically noting: 

  • Anticipated State increases for both staff salaries and benefits, 
  • The rise in local charter schools and 
  • A decreased number of students that attend our school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership, since the 2018-2019 school year. 

HIL Consultants believe Asheville City Schools is heading in an unsustainable direction if measures are not taken.  They’ve come to this conclusion based on projected decreases in the money we received both locally and from the State.  Knowing this will have a significant impact on our budget moving forward, they made four recommendations: 

  • The Board of Education should begin an immediate hiring freeze.  As attrition occurs, the district should not rehire unless the position is essential. 
  • The district should consider the consolidation of schools and programs when it’s feasible to do so.  Buildings and the number of support staff it takes to successfully maintain a campus are expensive, especially when the district is continuing to lose students. 
  • Review all outside service contracts, including maintenance and facility contracts that are not safety-related or essential.  
  • All departments should review their respective budgets and eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  

We invite you to read their full report here. 

Tonight was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations. 

According to Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, “District leadership will continue to present recommendations to the Board.  It will ultimately be up to them to make these hard decisions.” 


In addition to this report from HIL Consultants, independent auditors plan to give their final report to the Board of Education in November.