08/07/05 — County, schools meeting delayed

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County, schools meeting delayed

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 7, 2005 2:05 AM

Wayne County's commissioners and school district officials will wait one more week before continuing their discussion about how to spend county taxpayers' money.

County Manager Lee Smith said the meeting, which was to be held this Wednesday, was moved to Aug. 17 because of several issues, including a death in Wayne County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor's family.

The newly scheduled meeting will be at 5 p.m. at the county library.

But even though the actual meeting has been delayed, that doesn't mean the two staffs have not been working on ironing out the differences over funding for the schools, Smith said.

He said he and some members of his staff have been in contact with school officials and have been reviewing budgets and expenditures in preparation for continued negotiations.

A joint meeting to take a closer look at some of those numbers is also expected this week, Smith said.

"We have been exchanging financial data," he said. "So, we are going to be discussing some issues before the meeting."

Smith said the weeks since the last meeting between the school district and the county have been spent gathering as much information as possible to make sure each group has the tools it needs to respond effectively to questions and proposals regarding the availability and use of funds.

And the bottom line is money, he added.

"We have had to look at the county's financial position," Smith said.

The school district's facilities plan as well as other proposals will need to be funded not just in the building or renovation stage, but operationally as well. That means the costs must be analyzed completely before commitments are made.

Smith said keeping the county's expenditures and revenue in line is the best way to make sure the county can find a way to maintain a viable financial future, while still providing adequate funding for the county's schools.

"We are trying to improve our borrowing ability," he said.

Smith added that the questions the county is asking the school district regarding its proposed increased funding needs are in the same vein as those asked during the county's own budgeting process.

"My board's approach is (asking the school district) to justify the 5 percent just as they asked every other department to justify expenses," he said.

Although he acknowledged the county and the school district still have many issues to cover, Smith said he thinks the future for the negotiations is bright.

"I honestly think these two boards want the same things," he said. "They want to recruit really good teachers, and they want the children of Wayne County to have a good education."

Taylor also said continued discussion between the boards will speed the process toward a resolution, while getting both groups closer to a final budget.

"During the past few weeks, we have been exchanging information with the county commissioners," he said. "This process has been helpful, and I hope it will translate into a clear understanding between the boards."

Taylor said he and the school board members also have a higher goal in mind as they prepare to continue with the negotiations.

"We look forward to meeting with the commissioners as we work to resolve our differences in order to provide a quality education for all the children of Wayne County," he said.