05/05/04 — Teen commissioners return building plan for study

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Teen commissioners return building plan for study

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 5, 2004 2:10 PM

Increase teacher salaries? Done.

Build a civic center? No.

The Wayne County Public School system's $82 million building plan -- sent back for more study.

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners studied the issues, made the hard decisions and still finished its meeting in less than 40 minutes Tuesday.

Kids today, huh?

Tuesday was the annual "Youth Board of Commissioners Day" where high school students take the place of the commissioners, county manager, county attorney and other officials. The group studied current issues, practiced in the evenings and then held its mock meeting after the real county board finished its business.

Many of the commissioners remained to watch the teens in action. Superintendent Steven Taylor and several school board members also attended.

Although several issues were debated, the civic center and the school issues were the hottest topics.

Commissioner Zach Peterson made the pitch for increasing teacher pay supplements from 3.5 percent to 5 percent.

The school system is recruiting for teachers against other school systems that pay 5 percent or better, Peterson said. We must match that supplement or we will always lose out.

But how would the county pay for the increase? Commissioner Thomasina Lee asked. Would it require a tax increase?

Finance officer Michael Moore assured the board that the county has $20 million in reserves -- a figure the actual officials would argue -- and could afford the approximate $1 million cost of the increase.

Peterson's motion passed by a narrow 4-3 margin, drawing an enthusiastic "Yes!" from a teacher sitting in the back of the room.

The civic center was voted down because of uncertainty how the county and city would pay the estimated $15 million to $18 million to construct it.

Many board members also disputed the school system's request for new high schools in Grantham and Mount Olive.

Commissioner Betsy Overman noted that community schools are said to have closer relationships between teachers, students, administrators and parents. But they do not necessarily offer smaller class sizes and some advanced classes may no longer be available, at least on a regular schedule, she said.

Other board members said they had been swamped with letters from constituents about various things that had been left out or included in the building program.

The board voted 6-1 to send the package back to the school board for more study.

This year's participants were Sidney Best and Tanner Jackson, C. B. Aycock High; John Dougherty, Quina Davis, Thoasi Larry and Garrett Turknett, Eastern Wayne High; Whitney Cherry, Thomasina Lee and Donnesha Whitfield, Goldsboro High; Alex Benton, Corey Cantrell and Emily Thronson, Rosewood High; Tammie Gibbs, Michael Moore and Betsy Overman, Southern Wayne High; and Jason Buchman, Shelley Merritt and Zach Peterson, Spring Creek High.