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The Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education approved an initial budget for the 2019-20 school year Tuesday but not without some disagreement related to public safety funding.

In a 4-1 vote, Board Member Kerry Pennell voted against the $18.8 million budget, a proposed document still awaiting millions of dollars of funding from the state General Assembly and the Iredell County Board of Commissioners. The MGSD 2018-19 budget totaled $59.9 million after all funding sources came in last year. 

At issue Tuesday was an $85,000 line item for the renovation of a women’s restroom at the N.F. Woods Advanced Technology and Arts Center “C” building.

Pennell said she did not believe the renovation of the bathroom, the funding making up about 13 percent of the public safety’s $655,260 designation, to be an “immediate safety concern” and therefore was an unnecessary use of the funds. 

Pennell also said she hoped the public safety funding would serve as many students in the district as possible, as the other proposed public safety designation items, including campus security cameras and bus cameras, would do. 

Instead, Pennell suggested three other ideas for the proposed $85,000 in funding: the hiring of a new SRO, or school resource officer for use at the district’s three elementary schools; providing teachers with more de-escalation tools and training, or the purchase of cell phone booster equipment at the schools with poor cell phone service. 

MGSD Superintendent Stephen Mauney said he “respectfully disagreed” with Pennell’s statement about the Woods campus bathroom not being an immediate safety concern. There is a smaller presence of students and staff at the campus because all courses but auto tech have moved to the high school’s main campus, he said. Additionally, the campus is located on West McLelland Avenue, a street with heavy foot traffic, and anyone could gain access to the unlocked bathroom located on the exterior of the building, he said.   

“I understand your point about the majority of the money touching as many kids as you can, but I do consider this to be a valuable use of the safety money that’s generated or that will be given to us by the county,” said Mauney.

Board member Leon Pridgen agreed with Mauney, explaining the bathroom renovation is worth it to keep students safe. 

The board of education then voted to approve the proposed $18.8 million budget knowing that Terry Haas, MGSD chief financial officer, would come back later in the upcoming months to provide a more realistic budget once the state and county completes their own budgets and provide funding to the school district.

Typically, the MGSD could receive that information by early summer, but state law requires school boards to pass a budget for the following school year by Oct. 15, Haas said.

The budget passed Tuesday is currently based on “quite a number of assumptions,” said Haas. Currently, the school district doesn’t know about potential raises, benefits or other ways the General Assembly could impact the district’s budget, she said, but the proposed budget does include a a salary increase of 3 percent, a 2 percent matching retirement rate increase and a 20 percent increase in health insurance for eligible employees. 

Haas said she also asked for $11.7 million in funding from the county, or 9.9 percent more than last year’s $10.6 million, to provide for additional teachers and teacher assistants for therapeutic support classrooms; the addition of one custodial position and one social worker; a supplement increase of $250 for certified staff and a $75 increase for non-certified staff, among other things. 

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