11/11/10 — Duplin schools forge deal with commissioners on court order

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Duplin schools forge deal with commissioners on court order

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 11, 2010 1:46 PM

BEULAVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the board of county commissioners, ending more than two years of contention over school funding.

The school board previously approved, by a 3-2 margin, the terms of a similar memorandum, but sought assurance that the commissioners would secure the funding long enough to satisfy the $4.8 million lawsuit judgment set by a jury in 2008.

After amending the memorandum to reflect that change, the board passed the updated version unanimously -- the first unanimous vote on the memorandum since the school board received the proposal from the commissioners earlier this year.

The school board met Tuesday night in Chinquapin. Both the commissioners and the county board of education periodically hold meetings around the county.

At the meeting, board Chairman Reginald Kenan handed the gavel to Chuck Farrior, board vice chairman, before making the motion that the board accept the proposed memorandum. Board member Emily Manning seconded the motion, which was approved by a show of hands.

The two boards must still work out certain details, but the unanimous vote represents "a new chapter," in the two boards' relations, Duplin County Schools Superinten-dent Dr. Austin Obasohan said.

"I commend all of you and thank you for your leadership. Both the county commissioners and our Board of Education have created long-awaited peace in Duplin County," he said. "Thank you for putting children first."

The final version, signed by Kenan and commissioner Chairman Cary Turner, calls for the county to provide the schools with $8.8 million in current expense, $1.2 million in debt service and $1.2 million in capital outlay money, for a total of $11.3 million in funding.

The commissioners will not place restrictions on how the school board may use the current expense money, "as a good faith effort," according to the memorandum.

The increased level of funding for 2010-11 represents about 40 percent of all budgeted tax collection estimates, the memorandum states.

Additionally, the memorandum states that the level of funding "automatically requires future boards of commissioners to fund at levels that will not jeopardize our low wealth funding. Our intent is to establish a new benchmark upon which to base future funding efforts with the understanding that this will satisfy the $4.8 (million) judgment order by the courts."

The commissioners will also accept, for information purposes only, the Board of Education's request for capital construction.

The commissioners "stand ready to establish a new spirit of communication and cooperation between our two boards to properly discuss and address all of the funding needs of our schools."