05/10/11 — Board sends budget plan to county

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Board sends budget plan to county

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 10, 2011 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education Monday night voted to send its proposed $18.2 million local budget request to the county commissioners, and supported a state recommendation to oppose House Bill 344, which deals with tax credits for children with disabilities to attend private schools.

Nearly a week ago, the board met in work session to put the finishing touches on its draft budget, essentially asking for the same amount as was funded last year.

At the time, board member Arnold Flowers raised questions about the allocation for instructional supplies for teachers, slated for an $82,500 reduction.

After a discussion, the board settled on a proposal to halve the teacher sign-on bonus from $2,000 to $1,000, freeing up $104,000.

The updated version Monday night reflected the shift in funds, increasing instructional supplies by $21,500, bringing up the figure to $571,500.

Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance, presented the proposed draft that will be forwarded to the commission in time for its May 15 deadline.

While the board favored asking the commission to fund the schools at the same rate as last year, Flowers asked whether it might be in line to ask for more money.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said in his conversations with County Manager Lee Smith, there was no indication that more money was available. That, coupled with the precarious nature of the current state budget led him to believe there was little hope of getting additional funding.

Board member John Grantham asked whether there should be clarification made for the public regarding where pending job cuts might be made should the state budget indicate such.

"We don't really know any of that yet," Grantham said.

"No, sir, we do not have any indication at this point," Mrs. Barwick said. "There are several categories that I know that the House has looked at. It would be the board's determination if they so chose to RIF (eliminate jobs of) any employees from those particular allotments."

Until the budget is approved, however, there is no way to project which categories might be hit by job cuts, she said.

"Until we get the actual numbers from the General Assembly and know exactly which areas are going to be hit," Taylor added.

Board Chairman Thelma Smith said there will undoubtedly be several more meetings before all is said and done.

"This is nothing final, nothing final," she said.

"It's a work in progress. We'll come back to you as soon as we know," Taylor said.

In other board action, the board passed a resolution opposing House Bill 344 by a margin of 5-1, with Grantham the dissenting vote.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability/student services, presented the resolution, which had been passed the House in April. Basically, he said, it provides a $6,000 tax credit for students formerly identified as exceptional children to attend private schools. The N.C. school board association requested local school boards vote in opposition of the bill.

McFadden said the state's feeling was that the tax credit taken by parents would reduce the funding available to public schools and as a result, with fewer resources at its disposal, the district would receive the same amount of supplemental funding regardless of the actual resources used or costs incurred to serve such students.

Granthan explained his reason for not being in favor of the resolution.

"It's not a give-away," he said. "It's giving people back a portion of money spent on their children. If they go to a special school, they have a better idea of what their child needs. It's their tax money."

Board member Eddie Radford said he believed that in most cases, the district schools offer the best education for any child, and thus supported voting down the bill.