10/07/10 — Duplin schools close to agreement with county on funding

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Duplin schools close to agreement with county on funding

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 7, 2010 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Education voted 3-2 Tuesday night in favor of accepting some, though not all, of a school funding memorandum of understanding between the board and the county commission.

The vote ended weeks of discussion and debate on whether to accept some form of the memorandum of understanding, which proposes to provide the school system with 40 percent of local collected tax revenue.

Chairman Reginald Kenan made a motion to specifically approve the dollar amounts as stated in the memorandum, with the understanding that the funding agreement would be for a minimum of five years and with the intent for it to be perpetual. Board members Emily Manning and Willie Gillespie voted in favor of the motion.

Board members Chuck Farrior and Jennings Outlaw, who voted against it, supported approving the memorandum as it was presented.

After Kenan spoke with county staff, it was apparent to him that the numbers break down to 35 percent from ad valorem taxes and 5 percent from sales taxes, not a full 40 percent specifically from ad valorem taxes, he said.

Part of the money would come from restricted sales tax, which by law already must be dedicated to the schools, he said. Additionally, the chairman was not entirely comfortable with the way the document was worded.

Farrior suggested that the chairman amend the document to reflect the language he would like to see and send it back to the commissioners instead of asking the commissioners to change the memorandum to suit the school board.

Farrior called for a vote to approve the memorandum as it was presented. The vote failed 3-2 against, with Outlaw also voting in favor of the motion.

The Duplin County Board of Commissioners amended the memorandum last week to remove a phrase that had caused some contention between the school board members, and to adjust how much of the money would be placed in current expense or capital outlay funds.

The board members removed the phrase "we recognize neither of our boards can control the decisions of future boards," and would place 35 percent of collected money into current expense ($8.8 million) and 5 percent into capital outlay ($1.2 million) for a total of $10 million in funding.

That is $1.1 million per year more than the schools are currently receiving, and the commissioners' action promotes positive partnership, affords the schools greater spending flexibility and forms the foundation for future funding, Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan said.

But the source of the funds, the memorandum wording and the lack of a stated time limit led to disagreement among the board members, and Kenan's motion.

Mrs. Manning was concerned with the language of the memorandum. It did not explicitly state that the additional $1.1 million would be used to account for the money the county owes the board from the 2008 lawsuit judgment, she said.

Gillespie was likewise concerned that the memorandum did not set a specific time limit to ensure the full amount of the judgment will be paid.

Board member Hubert Bowden had an emergency and could not be present at the special called meeting, Obasohan reported.