By Elly Cosgrove | June 1, 2021 at 10:31 PM EDT – Updated June 1 at 11:26 PM
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Teaching through a pandemic was not easy for educators, but they could soon be rewarded with a raise for their efforts in New Hanover County.
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman said she has a renewed appreciation for teachers after having to teach her son over the course of the pandemic. That’s why she is pushing to raise teacher supplements to be the highest in the state.
“I just think that we’ve taken teachers for granted for way too long and we need to invest in our children,” Olson-Boseman said. “New Hanover County has the ability to make teacher pay number one in the state for New Hanover County and why would we not do that for our citizens.”
All public school teachers in North Carolina receive a base salary from the state — and most counties add on a yearly supplement.
The proposed county budget would more than double what it provides for teachers now — increasing supplements from an average of $4,183 to $9,000 a year. That figure is more than the average supplement teachers in Wake County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools receive, who are currently the highest paid educators in the state.
“I know I had a commissioner tell me, you know, we can’t compete with Wake County, Mecklenburg and I said well maybe you can’t but I can and we are absolutely going to compete with other counties.”
Olson-Boseman said she will not vote for a budget unless teacher supplements in the county are the highest in North Carolina and that the raise will help recruit and retain the best teachers, while also improving county schools.
“I just think that we’ve taken teachers for granted for way too long and we need to invest in our children,” she said. “It’s for the kids, it’s for the future.”
Under the county’s proposed budget, education spending will increase by 8.3% over the current year for a total a total of $121.5 million. Not only will this funding raise teacher supplements, but it will add new Teaching Fellow scholarships, provide teacher incentives for hard-to-staff-schools, add three more Pre-K classrooms and increase funding provided per student.
“I feel really good about it — doing this for the teachers and for the kids,” Olson-Boseman said. “Dr. Foust [New Hanover County Schools Superintendent] has said you’re going to pay us number one, we’re going to expect to be number one and he is laser-focused on the improvements he’s going to do to the school system.”
As for how the county will pay for it: Olson-Boseman said the recent property tax revaluation is making it possible.
“We have gotten a lot more money from the revaluation, so our tax rate is going to be at 47.5 [cents] — we’ve reduced it from around 55 [cents] I think, but property values have gone up so much,” she said.
In other words — although the property tax rate is dropping, revenue is projected to be up because of the increased property values.
“Its not revenue neutral, taxes are going up and I am proud to say that they are going up for teachers and our students and I will never apologize for that,” Olson-Boseman said.
The New Hanover County Commissioners will meet again next Monday, June 7th, and will have a public hearing on the proposed budget for anyone to comment. Commissioners could take a vote on the budget at that meeting or the final vote may happen two weeks later on June 21st.
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