The House debate on its budget continues tonight. The House will continue debating the bill until approaching midnight. At that point, a vote will be taken. Presumably, the budget will pass. At that point, the House will adjourn, and come back into session on Friday — perhaps just after midnight. Then another vote will occur, probably without a debate over a lot of amendments.
While the details are still being debated, here are some of the highlights. The growth of the budget over these two years is roughly equal to population growth and inflation. The big picture is that the budget is a two-year budget with the following spending in each year:
FY 2015-2016: $22,155,356,865
FY 2016-2017: $22,426,478,088
There is a lot in the budget, but these are my major highlights:
Salary & Benefits for State Employees:
- Salary Increase for Teachers and State Employees — Provides $361 million in FY 2015-2016 and $373 million in FY 2016-2017 for compensation increases. $169.4 million is specially allotted to teacher pay raises.
- Across the Board Teacher Raises — Provides an average 4% pay increase for all teachers. At least a 2% increase in the salary of each tier of the teacher salary schedule, and increases starting teacher (tier 1) salary from $33,000/yr to $35,000/year — a 6% increase.
- State Employees – Provides for a 2% increase for most State Employees. The UNC and Community College Systems are granted flexibility in awarding raises.
- Correctional Officers — Provides funds to implement Pay-by- Custody Level for correctional officers.
- State Highway Patrol and Forensic Scientists — Provides funds for market-based pay adjustments.
- Cost of Living Adjustment for Retirees — Provides for a 2% increase across the board.
Additional highlights of the budget across various subject areas include:
- Fully funds K-12 Enrollment Growth which amounts to $100 million in 2015-16 and $207 million in FY 2016-17. Additional funding of $88.8 million for Teacher Assistants.
- Funding for several major education initiatives, including digital leaning, teacher retention, and principal preparation.
- Provides targeted teacher bonuses to establish performance bonuses for teacher.
- Kept funding for Opportunity Scholarships (i.e. vouchers) which the constitutionality of the scholarship for eligible students to attend non-public schools is challenged.
NC Community College System
- Funds summer enrollment for the Community College System.
- Increases tuition by $4.00 per credit hour for community college courses with the additional money going to the community colleges.
Healthcare & Human Services:
- No cuts in Pre-K funding and availability, and the child care subsidy.
- Increase funding for foster care to support the growth in caseload.
- Expands hospice care by providing $20 million to help fund hospice facilities in under-served areas.
- Restores prior cuts to services to aging through Home and Community Care Block Grants.
Justice & Public Safety:
- Puts funds towards modernizing the court system, including increasing the yearly budget for operations, interpreters, expert witnesses and juries and makes investments in court technology.
- Provides $8.2 million to install dashboard cameras for every state highway patrol vehicle.
Agriculture & Natural Resources:
- Increases funding for the Clean Water Management Trust fund for clean water projects, including money for military buffers.
- Provides $23.8 million for water infrastructure through grants and loans to repair failing sewer systems in rural, economically distressed areas.
- Creates a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs by combining various programs from different state agencies.
Rainy Day Funds:
- Puts $200 million in the Savings Reserve and another $200 million in the Repairs and Renovation Reserve. [Note: The budget surplus was about $400 million, so all of the surplus will used to replenish various budget reserves.]
The debate is continuing on the budget, but these are some of the highlights. A more complete summary will follow early next week with a focus on what is particularly important to Henderson County and western North Carolina.