08/16/05 — Commissioners OK deal with schools on budget

View Archive

Commissioners OK deal with schools on budget

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 16, 2005 1:49 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners today approved a compromise with the county Board of Education that gives the schools additional money for the 2005-06 school year.

The school board had filed a legal protest with the amount of money commissioners allocated for public education in the budget they approved in June.

Both sides had been scheduled for a court-appointed mediation session on Wednesday but came to an agreement that avoided the showdown.

County Manager Lee Smith said after receiving financial information from the schools, and talking with School Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor that the county had a much better idea of what the school system needed.

"One of the concerns of the commissioners was wondering if the school system was maximizing other sources of funding," Smith said Monday.

Smith said commissioners came to the conclusion that school officials were doing their best to take advantage of other sources of income, and he also said that questions about the size of the school system's central office had been answered.

"There had been questions about whether there were too many on staff in the central office," Smith said. "We went to the state Department of Public Instruction, as well as other counties, to compare."

Smith said he felt confident that the size of the Wayne schools central office staff size was in line with comparable counties.

One change in school funding this year involved the availability of low-wealth money, Smith said.

"They are receiving more low-wealth this year, so we could take that into account as to what they actually needed," he said.

Under the agreement reached, the county will give the schools system $350,000 out of an $801,000 appropriation the county had set aside for future school building needs.

"I think we have found a happy medium," Smith said. "And I can't say enough about the helpfulness of the school staff. This is what it takes to get the job done."

County Commissioner Atlas Price, who is a former member of the Board of Education, said he understood the concerns of both boards and was glad an agreement was worked out to avoid a lawsuit.

"I commend the county manager and his staff, along with Dr. Taylor and his staff," Price said. "I know it was a lot of work, but there is always a solution if you work together to accomplish it."

Price said the county could still build up its reserve fund, which will go towards future school building, but that it would take a little longer to accumulate.

"But, we'll still be able to put $451,000 in the reserve fund this year," he said.