04/29/09 — Duplin schools ask for extra $5 million in funding

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Duplin schools ask for extra $5 million in funding

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 29, 2009 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County School District is asking for $12.5 million in local money for the next school year, which includes $4.8 million a court awarded the schools this past year.

The extra funding -- almost $5 million over the district's current $7.7 million budget -- was a result of a lawsuit challenging the county's funding formula for the schools.

School Finance Officer Jo Ann Hartley told county commissioners during a recent budget hearing that she has tried to cut out as much as she can, but the amount she saved has been offset by increased costs that had to be added back into the budget. And she is still anticipating more state funding cuts.

The school system is running this year on $79 million from local, state and federal sources. The request brings operating expenses to $80 million for the 2009-10 school year, which includes $60 million that will come to the county from the state and federal sources.

But just because the money is in the proposed budget does not mean it will become part of Duplin County's coffers, Mrs. Hartley said.

"The state keeps telling us don't count on those funds in the planning document," she said. She said state officials are telling her she is going to have to cut out another $870,000 -- and she has only put $300,000 in the requested local budget to make up for that loss of funds, which means there might be more cuts in store.

"The local request of $12.5 million still leaves the school system short of money," Mrs. Hartley said.

For example, the school system received $7.7 million in local money for the current school year. That has resulted in a per child expenditure of $880 per day. The state average in allocations for each child is $1,700 per day.

"Each county receives the same amount of state money for each student, but the state average is higher because of the added local support other counties give their school systems," she said.

The following are other increases requested for the next school year:

* $954,000 increase over the current year for 23.5 new teachers. Mrs. Hartley said the school system normally has to spend another $1 million a year to buy extra teachers, because of the state's class size restrictions.

* $17,000 increase for central office staff.

* $420,000 increase in local money to make up for lost Microsoft settlement money, which will run out this year. The school system has been using money from the Microsoft settlement to fund telecommunication costs.

* $202,000 for new library books that Mrs. Hartley said are badly needed to maintain accreditation.

* $162,000 for staff development to help close the achievement gap. The school system received $50,000 for the current school year for this line item.

* $140,000 increase to offset state cuts in low wealth funding.

* $433,000 to start up the new early college high school. The new early college high school will need 2.5 locally paid teachers. The state will pick up the tab on the rest of the school's seven teachers.

* $105,000 for supplies and materials in anticipation of massive state cuts.

* $30,000 increase over the current year's $50,000 for school telephone bills. Every school in the county has already run out of money to pay telephone bills for the rest of the school year, and school officials are scrambling to find a way to pay those bills.

"The individual schools have to kick in money to pay their phone bills at the end of each year. They shouldn't have to do that," Mrs. Hartley said.

The school system has already used $4.7 million out of fund balance this year. Mrs. Hartley anticipates having to use another $2.7 million before the school year ends.

"If everything is spent this year we'll be dangerously low. And if we budget it next year, we will be out of fund balance," she said. "We still have to use a heavy amount of fund balance..."