07/06/08 — Duplin County school funding talks continue

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Duplin County school funding talks continue

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 6, 2008 2:00 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Mediation continues between county commissioners and the school board as they attempt to resolve a dispute over the level of local school

The private meetings between the two groups representing commissioners and the school board will resume Monday morning. Chapel Hill attorney and professional mediator Andy Little is conducting the sessions.

The first mediation session held June 30 was followed that evening by commissioners appropriating an addition $425,000 for the schools.

It was also after the first meeting that it was announced that the county had hired Fayetteville attorney Neil Yarborough. County Manager Mike Aldridge said commissioners had decided they needed a specialist since the school board had retained Raleigh attorneys Richard Schwartz and Brian Shaw.

A second mediation meeting was held Wednesday. The session was devoted to the exchange of information, Aldridge said.

The school board had sought $13 million in local funding for the current budget. The board of education forced the mediation after commissioners approved $6.9 million.

The school board called the
funding "inadequate."

During a joint session between the two boards on June 23, attorneys for the school board said the system needs at least $9 million just to operate. They also renewed the board's request for the full $13 million.

Mediation could continue until Aug. 1.

If mediation fails to resolve the conflict, the next step would be a hearing in Duplin County Superior Court before either a judge or jury.

A judge could compel the county to increase taxes enough to fund the school system.