05/10/06 — Board passes budget, $90 million facilities plan

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Board passes budget, $90 million facilities plan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 10, 2006 1:53 PM

The Board of Education approved its 2006-07 local budget and a $90 million five-year facilities plan following a two-hour work session Tuesday afternoon.

The $3.9 million budget for the school system was pared down from an all-inclusive list of needs that totaled $8.5 million, said Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance.

The school system is required to submit its local budget to county commissioners by May 15; a joint meeting between the two boards has been scheduled for that evening.

The board had already held a work session April 25 to hammer out the financial matters. It was to have been approved at the May 1 meeting, but the group tabled the vote pending a second work session.

The expansion budget reflects a 7 percent increase, or about $1.3 million, needed to maintain current expenses and meet the following mandates: 6.5 percent in teacher supplements or $3.3 million, $145,000 in additional teacher salaries and supplements as a directive of Gov. Easley's plan to increase salaries by 5 percent each year over the next three years, and an increase to fuel costs of about $250,000 next year for diesel fuel, $400,000 for utilities and $160,000 for heating.

The local budget includes requests to restore 21 teacher assistant positions lost to cuts in state funding, hire additional assistant principals, media assistants and update classified salaries; supplies for new social worker and school nurse positions; startup supplies and equipment for the early/middle college to be housed at Wayne Community College; technology, staff development and upgrades to middle school athletics.

The board also discussed the school system's facilities priority list. Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said he had spoken with Evergreen Solutions, the consulting firm hired by county commissioners to assess the district's needs. A representative had recommended the school system submit a five-year plan, he said.

"We know that we have turned in a 20-year plan to the county commissioners. (Evergreen is) suggesting that we take the first five years of this plan and put it into that format," he said.

The board reviewed the latest approved priority list, which had been sent over to the commission in November, before agreeing on a 12-item list of projects for the district.

Several aspects of the list were discussed, with the board maintaining the top concern continues to be renovations at Brogden Primary School. The members also debated the need to look at housing patterns across the county.

Board member Rick Pridgen said he was thankful to have received a list of proposed subdivisions from the planning board. With growth patterns continuing to be heavier in the northern end of the county, resulting in overcrowded schools, Pridgen suggested it might be wise to begin exploring land purchase options around the county.

It is important to study where houses are being built, Pridgen said. With most of the subdivisions going in on the northern end of the county, there will naturally be children born in those houses who will later be enrolled in the schools nearby, he said.

"We have got to be prepared for that," he said.

Board member Thelma Smith agreed but noted there is another aspect that should be addressed.

"It's not that the population is growing; it's shifting," she said.

The student population in the school system has not changed drastically in recent years, school officials say. In the last 10 years, there has only been an increase of around 1,000 students.

"If we're still serving the same 19-20,000 students but we're going to add on (facilities), unless we have an influx of students coming in to Wayne County and needing to build brand new schools, that's one thing, but if we're just building schools to have schools in every area, that's not serving the public," Mrs. Smith said.

Board member George Moye said it equated to "taking more space to educate the same number of kids."

Board Chairman John P. Grantham disputed the claim that growth is only happening in northern Wayne County.

"We have over capacity at Grantham," he said, citing overcrowding in such areas as athletic facilities and the cafeteria, where lunches are being served as early as 10:30 a.m. and running until 1:10 p.m.

The finalized priority list proposes four new schools - a $14.5 million middle school in the Grantham community, new elementary and middle schools in the northern end of the county, estimated at costs of $10.5 million and $14.5 million, respectively, and a new middle school in the Spring Creek area, projected to cost $14.5 million.

Other items include $4 million for a multipurpose room at Brogden Primary; $8 million in projects throughout the central attendance area; $6 million at Charles B. Aycock High School, which includes 20 new classrooms and renovations; $6 million in renovations at Eastern Wayne Middle; $1 million worth of renovations, including air conditioning in the kitchen and gymnasium at Greenwood Middle; Mount Olive Middle renovations to the bathrooms, cafeteria, and air conditioning, for a total of $2 million; $6 million worth of renovations to Norwayne Middle; and $3.5 million worth of projects at Spring Creek Elementary.