06/14/05 — Duplin votes 'no' on more funding

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Duplin votes 'no' on more funding

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 14, 2005 1:48 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County commissioners voted down a proposal last week to give the public schools more money.

At a work session, Commissioner L.S. Guy, a former superintendent of the county school system, urged his fellow commissioners to allocate a 5 percent increase in the amount of money the county gives the schools for current expense.

He and Commissioner Arliss Albertson voted for the proposal. The rest of the board voted against the idea.

Guy said afterward that he was disappointed. The county's proposed budget for 2005-2006 maintains county spending for the schools at the same level as the current year, with $6 million for current expense and $1 million for capital outlay.

He noted that the statewide average of money spent per pupil increases each year. Duplin should not be at the bottom of the list of the state's 100 counties, he said.

"You can't go any lower than the last," Guy said. "It's a sad testimony for us. I believe we should never approve a budget without some additional revenue going to the public schools."

The state has a low wealth formula for counties to receive money based on a minimum amount spent by that county on each student. The low wealth minimum is $5.51 per student. Duplin's per-student appropriation is $6.

County Manager Fred Eldridge said the county's budget for next year includes about $500,000 above the minimum for per-pupil appropriation to the schools. But he said the county will have to increase that level at some point.

"You can't continue to stay flat and move forward," Eldridge said.

Duplin commissioners are not considering an increase in the current tax rate of 77 cents.

Reginald Wells, the chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said he believes the schools should have to tighten their belts the same as the rest of the county.

Commissioner Zettie Williams said schools need new buildings to recruit teachers, but added she could not support Guy's motion to give them more money now.

Commissioner David Fussell said he believes the county schools staff is top-heavy. He said he has asked education officials to find ways to make reductions in its administration.