Pitt Co. Schools Unhappy With How McCrory Plans To Pay For Teacher Raises

A local school district is expressing concern about how the governor plans to cover the costs of teacher pay raises in his state budget plan.

Pitt County Schools Finance Director Michael Cowin says Governor Pat McCrory's current proposal would shift the responsibility of paying for worker's compensation and school bus tort claims to the schools, which would result in millions of dollars worth of unfunded obligations for local school districts.

Cowin says that would mean a $1.7 million obligation in Pitt County alone and up to $70 million statewide.

Worker's compensation and bus tort liability are forms of insurance that cover the costs associated with injured workers and bus accidents. Both have traditionally been paid for by the state.

Cowin provided a number of examples of how Pitt County would potentially make up the difference. He says the $1.7 million budget shortfall would equate to 37 classroom teachers, 52 teacher's assistants, 48 custodial positions or 40 office support positions.

"It will have an impact on our operations and not a good impact," says Cowin.

The governor was in Greenville on Wednesday and defended the proposed changes. He says worker's compensation is straining budgets statewide.

McCrory contends that placing worker's comp in the hands of local districts will allow for better supervision of the program.

"We've got to have local control of workman's comp, so we get control of those costs that are busting all budgets at this point in time," says McCrory. "The dilemma I have is that at the local level, the governor has no authority to enforce fraud of workmen's comp."

Cowin says that he and other administrators support the proposed raises for teachers, but that local schools shouldn't have to cover state expenses. At this time, no formal plans are in place to cover the proposed costs.