10/18/06 — Duplin school board approves budget

View Archive

Duplin school board approves budget

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 18, 2006 1:50 PM

It took more than three months, but on Tuesday night the Duplin County Board of Education finally approved a 2006-07 budget.

The school system has been operating under an interim budget since July.

The $69.1 million budget was delayed because of several staff changes in recent months -- Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby was hired in April and Chief Financial Officer Carolyn Olivarez was hired in August -- and because the state Department of Public Instruction did not release its final funding numbers for the counties until earlier this month.

It is, however, a budget that school officials said was worth the wait.

"We feel like we have a budget that is centered on children, centered on child preparation and centered on academics," Doby said. "Ninety percent of the budget is devoted to instruction and instruction expenses. We're very proud of that.

"What you spend your money on is reflective of where your priorities are and ours are meeting the needs of every child in this school system."

More than 9,000 children, pre-K through 12th grade, attend Duplin schools.

Of the system's total $69.1 million operating budget, 73 percent of the funding comes from the state, 11 percent comes from the federal government and 10 percent comes Duplin County. Another 6 percent comes from other local sources such as grants.

Because the state was faced with a $2 billion surplus this year, the General Assembly was able to fully fund the low wealth supplemental fund for the first time.

This fund provided an additional $1 million to Duplin Schools, much of which is going into teacher supplements and salaries.

Also for the first time in five or six years, the state did not demand the return of a portion of the county's allocated funds, effectively increasing the budget by about $375,000.

Locally, the $6.6 million from the county government is an increase over its school funding in 2005-06. Local funding has increased every year since 2001-02.

That total, however, does not include the $1 million the commissioners authorized for the school system at their meeting Monday morning. It also does not include the $4.5 million they authorized in capital outlay and the $1.2 million they are providing for debt service.

And, Olivarez said, more money could be on the way as commissioners also directed county and school staff to discuss how to best utilize another $2 million in capital reserve funds the county is holding for the school system.

Because those discussions are pending, Olivarez did not factor Monday's $1 million into her budget presentation.

Those dollars will be going toward school safety, staff and faculty supplements and facility maintenance projects.

The general budget, on the other hand, spans a range of expenditures -- 90 percent of which goes to instruction and support, 6 percent to operations, 2 percent to transportation and 2 percent to administration.

Within that, 83 percent of the budget is wrapped up in salaries and benefits, 9 percent in operations, including maintenance, utilities and insurance, and 8 percent in supplies and equipment.

"When you're faced with budget cuts, this is something important to remember," Olivarez said. "The only place you can go if you have cut, is into salaries and benefits and that's people."

With people -- teachers and staff -- figuring so heavily into the budget, they also were the recipients of the biggest improvements.

One area that received increased funding was teacher, assistant principal and principal supplements.

However, all are still below the state average -- one reason for the $1 million allocated by the commissioners.

Another area that the budget addressed was the need for an early recruitment fund.

The $175,000 fund will allow administrators to hire prospective teachers directly from spring job fairs rather than having to wait until the end of the school year.