Duplin School Board: Inflation affected funding
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 8, 2008 1:45 PM
KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County commissioners were told Monday morning that inflation and other factors are eating into several state and federal funding sources to the tune of $1.179 million that the county will need to make up to maintain existing positions and programs.
That prompted Commis-sioner David Fussell to ask school board attorney Brian Shaw, "Are you going to sue the state? Are you going to sue the federal government? Why are you suing us?"
Shaw's response was that there are no mechanisms in place to sue the state or federal governments, leaving commissioners as the only recourse for the funding.
Shaw appeared before commissioners to explain how state low-wealth and at-risk funds and federal Title II funds are being impacted by inflation.
The presentation was an outgrowth of the ongoing mediation between commissioners and the school board over local school funding.
Two mediation sessions have been held and a third is scheduled for July 14. It was through the last mediation session that commissioners had asked the school board for more information about the decrease in state and federal funding.
The school board has said the system needs at least $9 million to operate and has asked for a total of $13 million. The county has funded slightly more than $7 million.
The county is expected to receive a little more than $4 million in low-wealth funding, the same as it did last year. However, inflation budgeted at three percent, increases in teachers' salaries and retirement are taking a toll to the tune of $474,642, Shaw said.
Title II accounts for another $185,168, while at-risk funding $325,214 in funding that the county will need to make up.
The remainder of the $1.179 million are $40,030 in state transportation funds, $100,000 from Title I and state staff development funds and $54,549 from the Sheriff's Office in additional funding for school resource officers.
Carolyn Olivarez, the school board's financial officer, was on the agenda to make the presentation and when Shaw got up to speak instead, Commissioner L.S. Guy objected.
Guy said he meant no offense to Shaw, but that when the school board had asked for information that county Finance Officer Teresa Lainer had done so without an attorney.
Commissioner Zettie Williams also questioned whether it was wise to listen to Shaw in light of the mediation. She said it would be best if Mrs. Olivarez made the presentation because of her experience.
"I think the key was a request for more information," Shaw said. "We thought this would be the best method. Not to be disrespectful, we just thought it would be the best."
However, Shaw said he would be glad to step aside and abide by commissioners' wishes.
"At least we are talking," he said. "I am sure that if I get out of line that Neil (Yarborough) will rein me in."
Shaw was referring to Yarborough, the Fayetteville attorney who has been hired by commissioners to assist them with the mediation. Yarborough, who was in the audience, had met with commissioners earlier in the morning in a closed-door session.
The board agreed to allow Shaw to proceed.
Mrs. Olivarez said that 81 percent of the school system's budget is "people."
"Inflationary factors are very great," she said. "The money doesn't change but the same amount of money tomorrow will not cover the same amount of people that is does to day."
Complicating the issue is waiting on the General Assembly to set salary increases and retirement for educators, she said.
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