08/15/05 — County, schools budget deal in works

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County, schools budget deal in works

By Renee Carey
Published in News on August 15, 2005 1:54 PM

More money from the governor and a change in the rules for fines and forefitures could have helped bring an end to the county, school budget battle.

That is, if the Wayne County Commissioners approve the plan at their meeting Tuesday.

At a special meeting this morning, Wayne County Board of Education members accepted a proposal that could resolve the budget negotiations between the two groups.

The plan, which was outlined in a prepared statement read by Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor, came as a result of continuing negotiations and meetings between county and school district personnel regarding available county funds and school district needs.

“In the process of our negotiations, we learned the governor had approved for all low-wealth counties, which includes our school district, to receive additional low-wealth revenue resulting in an increase from last year,” Taylor said. “At the same time, with the change in the law regarding the percent of revenue received for fines and forfeitures for 2005-06, we stand to gain additional dollars in that category also.”

The allotment increase would give the schools an additional $400,000. The fines and forefiture change would net the district an additional $50,000.

Those additional school district funds, along with a county promise to release an additional $350,000 of the $801,000 it initially set aside for “future school-related appropriations,” will give the county schools the money they need to operate, Taylor said.

That would make further negotiations between the two groups unnecessary.

In anticipation of commission approval of the proposal at its meeting Tuesday morning, the Board of Education also approved a motion to cancel the mediation session scheduled for Wednesday with the county.

Should the county reject the proposal, the meeting would go on as planned.

“I think it is a win for them and us,” board chairman Lehman Smith said. “We’ll end up with money in our accounts that we need for the children and they can keep the other funds (available).”

Several board members, although pleased with the proposed end to the negotiations, said they are still wary of the county’s willingness to release the remaining $451,000 of the original $801,000 set aside by the commission.

Board members Pete Gurley and Shirley Sims said they wanted to make sure that if the county schools need the money, they will not have to go through a prolonged process to get approval.

“What do we have to do to get that money released?” Mrs. Sims said.

Taylor assured the board that the additional money would be released as requested by the school district.

Smith said he hopes the county commission will also approve the measure.

“I hope negotiations are over,” he said. “This has been a trying time for them and us.”