05/03/05 — School budget $23 million

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School budget $23 million

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 3, 2005 1:50 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education voted Monday night to send a $23 million local budget to county commissioners, requesting that the school system's teacher supplement be maintained and positions previously cut from the budget be restored.

The board also discussed maintaining the school system's fund balance and an appropriation for Edgewood Community Developmental School.

Dr. Steve Taylor, the school system's superintendent, said the school board reviewed its budget and fund balance in response to a request from commissioners during a joint meeting last week. He said the possibility of a bond referendum has been discussed, pending completion of the schools' facility plan.

In order to maintain teacher supplements at 6.5 percent, the proposed 2005-2006 budget contains a 5-percent annual increase in current expenses, which Taylor said the commissioners committed to last year.

He said it has been the school system's understanding that "a 5 percent increase in current expense for future years would be guaranteed and maintained for the purpose of continuation of the 6.5 percent teacher supplement when combined with our effort to fund."

Reading from the commissioners' "Policy of Understanding Regarding Public Education," which was adopted April 5, Taylor said, "The county is responsible for funding and/or supplementing the needs, not wants of the public school system not provided by the State of North Carolina or the federal government."

He said there has not been an increase to the schools' current expense budget beyond the annual 5 percent in at least five years, when his tenure as superintendent began.

"In fact," Taylor said, "for 2002-2003, we did not receive a 5-percent increase at all that year."

The school system will have to allocate $900,000 from its fund balance for 2005-2006, Taylor said. The current audit report shows the school system will finish 2004-2005 with just over $2 million in its fund balance, he said. That is the same amount recommended by the Institute of Government, he pointed out.

But Taylor said that unpredictability in fuel costs and other expenses "will put a strain on our fund balance reserves for years to come at the high cost it is at presently."

Taylor also said that in order to remain competitive, the Wayne school system needs to restore 58 staff positions cut in recent years in other cost-saving efforts. Among them are teaching positions in music, art, physical education, Spanish, and vocational education.

Another 21 teacher assistant positions in grades K-3, as well as assistant principal and media coordinator positions also need to be restored, Taylor said.

The school board also asked for continued funding for Edgewood, a school which provides for developmentally-challenged students. This was the first year commissioners have asked the school system to give an account of how funds are spent at the school, Taylor said.

The proposed appropriation for Edgewood is $587,667.

Board member Shirley Sims said that considering the size of Edgewood's student population, that funding should not only be continued, but increased.

Other board members commented on the commissioners' suggestion that the school system fund its needs and not its wants.

"This budget includes nothing but needs," said board member Pete Gurley. "We certainly hope they will remember what they promised."

"All of our needs are our wants," said board member George Moye. "It's as simple as that."

Dr. Taylor said he is hoping for a favorable vote from the commissioners.

"It would be great if we could get everything we ask," he said. "Hopefully, we will not get any reductions."

This week and next, commissioners plan to tour schools across the county to assess building needs. School board members say they believe the visits will be helpful to their cause.