07/12/05 — No end yet for dispute on budget

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No end yet for dispute on budget

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 12, 2005 1:45 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education met Monday to discuss their differences over money but settled nothing except the date for the two sides to meet again.

Both boards said they wanted more information from the other before entering into negotiations.

The school board has challenged commissioners' allocation for 2005-06, saying it isn't enough.

On Monday, county officials said they would be reviewing the school system's financial records. School officials said they would do likewise with commissioners' records.

Both boards also agreed to extend the time frame for mediation until Sept. 15. State law calls for the issue to be settled by Aug. 1 unless both boards agree to an extension.

County officials said they want to see the school system's line-item budget for the past year and the coming year, as well as minutes from Board of Education meetings. School officials said they want to look over commissioners' minutes, as well as other unspecified documents.

State law requires the two sides make a good-faith effort to resolve their differences. If they cannot reach an agreement, the schools have the right to sue the county in Superior Court.

Mike Jones, a Goldsboro lawyer, was chosen by Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell to serve as the mediator between the two boards. Jones set the next meeting of the two boards for Aug. 10 at 4 p.m. at the Wayne County Public Library.

When commissioners approved a budget on June 28, they agreed to put $801,000 in a reserve account for schools, saying they want to build up the county's fund balance so it can borrow money to pay for future school building needs.

But school officials say they need that money now to pay for teacher supplements. The supplements are critical to recruiting and retaining good teachers, school board members have said.

Jack Edwards, the school board's lawyer, said that if both sides can obtain the information they need before the next meeting, that the issue possibly can be settled the next time the two boards sit down together.