09/06/06 — Best asks about tax revenues

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Best asks about tax revenues

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 6, 2006 1:53 PM

A Wayne County commissioner questioned Tuesday how the county's public school system is spending its sales tax revenue, and why it hasn't used the money to build new schools.

The money generated from the county's half-cent sales tax is issued for capital outlay projects, said Nan Barwick, Wayne County Schools assistant superintendent for finance. Capital outlay projects include roofing, vehicle or bus purchases and furniture and equipment needs for schools.

County Manager Lee Smith said the Wayne County Public Schools system has about $4.5 million available in capital outlay funds after the commissioners received about $2.3 million in sales tax revenue recently. Commissioner Jack Best asked why the schools haven't spent any of the money preparing to build new schools.

"So there is $4.5 million that's allocated to (the school board), but they haven't allocated any for buying land to build a new school or to make design plans, and they're ready to go?" Best said.

The sales tax revenue is held by the county and can be requested during the year by the school board, Smith said. The sales tax usually generates about $3 million for schools, with an average of $1.8 million being spent annually on maintenance projects and debt reduction, Mrs. Barwick said.

The school system always tries to save money, which can roll over into the next fiscal year, in case of emergencies, Mrs. Barwick said. For example, if a hurricane came through Wayne County and destroyed the roofs of five public schools, the school board would be responsible for fixing those problems.

"You don't have the option of not repairing schools," she said.

Although the school system has saved enough to cover the costs of an emergency, Mrs. Barwick said the schools have never been able to accumulate enough money for larger projects, such as a new school.

"You just can't build a new school for $3 million," she said.