08/07/07 — Duplin commissioners talk about extra school funding

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Duplin commissioners talk about extra school funding

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 7, 2007 1:45 PM

Despite the Duplin County Board of Commissioners spending a large chunk of their meeting Monday discussing school funding, the board did not decide what to do about the additional $750,000 it allocated to the school board in June.

Originally given on top of the $6.5 million in operating expenses already budgeted, the extra funds were restricted to use in purchasing classroom supplies and continuing necessary maintenance.

County school finance director Carolyn Olivarez, however, explained that because of a $1.95-per-student increase in state funding for instructional supplies, the school system felt the county's additional dollars could be better spent paying maintenance ($595,000) and utility costs ($155,000).

The board, though, decided to delay its decision until first-year commissioners Cary Turner and Harold Raynor are able to tour the county's 15 schools.

What the commission did do is vote to release the $6.5 million in current expense funds and $1.45 million in capital outlay funds it had already budgeted to the school board in June.

The commissioners voted 5-1 to release the funds only after reviewing a detailed budget of how that money is to be spent. The county also is requiring that it be notified if the school board changes any line item by 25 percent or more.

Commission Chairman David Fussell, though, wanted a written memorandum of understanding between the two boards before he would vote to release any of the funds.

"There is still a lot of concern we are not allocating our resources adequately," he said.

Ms. Olivarez also tried to explain again how Duplin schools ended up 25 teacher positions short this year from last -- though that question was not directly related to the $750,000.

Causing the shortfall, she said, were several factors, including cuts in state funding for teacher positions, increases in costs such as insurance and utilities, and the fact that the school system had dipped into fund balance in the past to pay for many of those local teaching positions.

The commissioners also declined to meet a $1.6 million request for local teachers in the school board's budget request. They did not revisit that decision Monday.

However, Ms. Olivarez also explained that the impact of those cuts on students and the classrooms should be minimal.

"We need those local positions. But we have not cut programs, and no teachers have lost their jobs. Teachers were transferred around to meet state guidelines. That is a normal process," she said.

In particular, she added, the band program and other classes will remain in place at North Duplin High School.