03/19/08 — Schools deliver budget to county

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Schools deliver budget to county

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 19, 2008 1:45 PM

Meeting in the second of four scheduled sessions, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education began preliminary discussions about the school system's 2008-09 budget Tuesday afternoon.

"When it says draft, that's exactly what that means," Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor said.

In their presentation, school officials showed what they are currently projecting for county operating dollars, their annual small project capital budget and a reduced expansion budget piece.

For the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, school finance officer Nan Barwick is estimating that the district will have spent nearly $21 million in county appropriated funds for such line items as extra teacher salaries, teacher and administrative supplements, electricity, Internet, transportation, cleaning supplies, employee benefits, media center resources and staff development.

Next year, based on the attendance figures currently projected by the state -- slightly less than this year, meaning slightly less funding -- and a request by Gov. Mike Easley for a 10 percent teacher pay increase, she is anticipating an increase of about $1.4 million in county funding for a total of slightly more than $22 million.

"Based on the numbers and the revenues today, if the 10 percent from the governor comes through, and if the revenues hold true, we will need about a 4 percent county appropriation increase to do as is right now," Ms. Barwick said.

The county's departments operate under a 2 percent annual budget increase restriction.

On the capital side, school Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services Sprunt Hill explained that the district is budgeting based on the school board's request that at least $2.5 million in sales tax and lottery revenues be available every year for annual capital needs.

Included in his plan for next year are gym floor resurfacing, roof repairs at Eastern Wayne Elementary, walkways at Northeast Elementary, blinds at Brogden Middle and furniture, security systems, parking lot improvements and a practice football field for Spring Creek High.

Also included in the budgetary puzzle was the expansion budget, presented by Taylor.

"This is a far cry from what we asked for last year," he said.

Last year the expansion budget -- a sort of wish list -- was about $12.5 million.

This year it's less than $1 million.

It includes one additional mobile pre-kindergarten bus, summer school for rising first- through third-graders, additional security equipment, school resource officers for middle schools, a new position to coordinate countywide mentoring efforts, and research and planning for the potential implementation of a vocational high school (much like the current School of Engineering or Wayne Early/Middle College).

And finally, short presentations were given on the school system's ability to save about $62,000 in its local budget this year by following the Evergreen Report's cost-saving recommendations, and on a memorandum of understanding between the schools and the county on capital projects, including many of the pieces requested as part of the $25 million facilities plan, such as hiring a construction manager and preparing a long-range mobile classroom use policy

All in all, Smith said, this was exactly the kind of information county officials needed.

"This kind of detail helps us do a comparison from last year to this year," he said. "And I would hope that for the rest of this process we will be in constant conversation."

"It's important that they share this information," Commissioner J.D. Evans added. "In my opinion, I think this is one of the best meetings we've ever had."

Now, Commissioner John Bell said, they will have to go back and study these requests a little harder.

"It sounded reasonable," he said. "It's a good working tool. If we can meet it, we'll meet it. If we can't, then we'll let them know."