11/07/06 — Duplin commissioners hand over more money

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Duplin commissioners hand over more money

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 7, 2006 1:45 PM

With a savings account well above expectations, the Duplin County Board of Commissioners was feeling generous again Monday morning as it doled out almost $2 million in extra funding to the county Sheriff's Department, the county school system and James Sprunt Community College.

The commissioners provided $1.5 million in capital reserve funds to the schools, $222,124 to the community college and $250,000 to the Sheriff's Department.

The capital reserve funds given to the schools, Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby said, are going to be used for safety and security purposes -- new intercom systems, walkie-talkie radios for administrators and more security cameras in the halls, parking lots and buses. That capital reserve money is coming from a pot of $2.5 million the county holds for the school system.

The most recent award follows another $1 million designated by the commissioners at their Oct. 16 meeting for the schools.

That money, Doby said, will be used for facility improvements, including painting and pressure-washing, as well as staff supplements. Those dollars came out of the county's general fund balance -- its saving account.

Already this year, the school system has received about $6.6 million from the county for general expenditures, $1.45 million in capital outlay and $1.2 million for debt service.

The money given to the community college is coming from two funds -- $69,378 from its $250,000 capital reserve fund held by the county and $169,746 from the county's general fund balance.

The capital funds, James Sprunt President Lawrence Rouse said, will be used to bring buildings up to American Disability Act requirements, roof repairs and heating and air system replacements. The rest of the funding will be used to pay for increased utility, security, supply and health insurance costs.

"We're trying to save as much money as we can, but our costs are just increasing faster than we can handle," said John Hardison, dean of administrative and fiscal services.

Previously, the county had budgeted $17,000 for the community college.

Sheriff Blake Wallace said he will be using his department's additional funding to help combat the county's gang problem, to buy equipment and to make repairs to the jail. The Sheriff's Department budget is $5.4 million.

"We do have a gang problem, and the only way to combat it is to put the resources toward the problem," he said.

But even though the county's fund balance is still above the commissioners' desired 12 percent minimum, several of them are beginning to get nervous about their recent expenditures.

The problem, Commissioner L.S. Guy Jr. said, is making large allocations mid-year.

"No doubt it was needed, and I voted to spend it in every case," he said. "But the right time to do this was at budget time.

"I'm so sorry we've allowed ourselves to do this. When we look at what we've just done, it's going to create some real difficult times for us in the future."

Commissioner Zettie Williams emphasized that the schools, the community college and the Sheriff's Department need to realize that this is a one-time appropriation.

"We can't reach into the magic hat next year," she said. "I would expect each one of these to come back next year knowing there's a limit."