04/20/08 — Duplin schools seek $13.2 million from county

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Duplin schools seek $13.2 million from county

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 20, 2008 1:26 PM

After having $5 million chopped from their budget proposal last year by the county commissioners, Duplin County Public School officials are trying again this year, increasing their requested local funding by nearly $1 million.

Their request this year for local operating funds is $13.2 million.

Last year, it was $12.3 million, although only $7.3 million of that was funded.

The unfunded $5 million difference, explained county school finance officer Carolyn Olivarez, would have gone to support for teachers.

Of that, 40.62 teacher positions, including classroom teachers, middle school literacy coaches, English-as-a-second-language instructors and high school curriculum specialists, accounted for $1.7 million.

This year, those local requested positions have increased to 52 and the funding required has increased to $2.8 million.

"Every year when you get (salary increases mandated by the state), your dollars just don't go as far," Ms. Olivarez said.

And of those positions, she continued, 29.7 are currently employed -- funded largely through cuts made in teachers' supply allocations last year.

"If the commissioners do not help us fund those, we'll have to cut supply allocations again," she said. "We don't want anybody to lose their jobs."

Overall, though, even if the county funds the entire $13.2 million request, Duplin will still be below the state average in the amount of local funds provided for education.

With 9,003 students enrolled this year, the county's current per-pupil spending is $816.

Next year, if the school system is fully funded and enrollment falls by 16 students to 8,987 as projected by the state Department of Public Instruction, that number will be $1,474 per student.

The state average is $1,692.

"I think it's a good goal to get the local per-pupil funding up to the state average," Ms. Olivarez said. "And I'm hopeful (the commissioners) will help us.

"Because of the conversations that took place last year (after the budget was approved) we're confident they understand our dilemma."

Also requested is $2.5 million in capital funding.

Last year's request was $2.3 million, of which $1.45 million was funded.

Those funds, she explained, are for annual maintenance on roofs, mobile units, parking lots, athletic fields and other equipment. Also included this year is a $35,000 request for a traffic light at Warsaw Middle School.

That $2.5 million does not include any funding for the school system's controversial facilities plan, though school officials don't want the county commissioners to forget about those needs during their budgeting process.

"Of course we're reminding them that the school's (long-term) capital needs are $63 million," Ms. Olivarez added.

But the budget itself, school Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby said, pretty much covers just the bare minimum.

"We have tried to cover most of our needs with this request, but I can't tell you it is covering all of our needs," he said. "We don't consider this request to be what you might call fluff.

"Our needs are considerable, and we're trying to provide for those needs for the children of DC as effectively and efficiently as we possibly can."

And, he, too, is optimistic that the commissioners will come through.

"We certainly will take the adequate time to present this to them," he said. "We're certainly always very hopeful. We're going to give it our best shot and let the pieces fall where they may."