Duplin schools ask for outside jury in fight over funds
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 13, 2008 1:39 PM
KENANSVILLE -- Attorneys for the Duplin County Board of Education Tuesday afternoon filed a motion to have its lawsuit against county commissioners heard by jurors from outside the county.
Failing that, the motion seeks to have the case tried in another county.
The school board had asked for the jury trial and earlier this week court officials said 200 people had been added to the 100 already in the jury pool because of the case.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the Duplin County Board of Commissioners this morning were preparing a counter motion.
The school board's motion is expected to be heard Friday in Duplin County Superior Court.
Under state law, the case will be fast-tracked, and will take priority over all other business of the court.
Should the court rule against the county, commissioners could be ordered to raise property taxes to help provide more local funding for the schools.
The county earlier had filed a motion to dismiss the suit. A hearing date had not been scheduled as of Wednesday morning.
The trial is scheduled to get under way Monday with Judge Thomas D. Haigwood of Greenville presiding.
The lawsuit, filed after mediation between the two boards was declared at an impasse, seeks an unspecified amount of money. It also asks that the cost of the suit be borne by commissioners.
Commissioners and the school board have been at odds for the past several years over the level of local funding.
The county's 2008-09 budget included $6.9 million for schools. The school board had asked for $13.2 million.
In a resolution that initiated the mediation, the school board called the funding inadequate to operate a free public school system.
School board attorneys said the system needs $9.5 million in local current expense funds just to operate. They are still asking for $12.579 million in local current expense funding.
During the mediation commissioners appropriated an additional $800,000 for the school board's current expense budget and $1,010,203 to the capital outlay budget (no local funds).
To date, the county has provided about $7.7 million in local current expense funding.
The school board has not yet responded to the additional funding.
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