05/12/13 — County: Schools received funding

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County: Schools received funding

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 12, 2013 1:50 AM

Remarks by Wayne County Public Schools officials concerning the county's level of school funding appear to have caught the attention of the county's commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners asked county Finance Director Pam Holt to provide information on the money provided to the schools after comments were made at a recent school board meeting that the county's funding level has been flat for a number of years.

Mrs. Holt also cleared up apparent confusion on the part of some commissioners about the various school funds.

The school board has said it will ask for $18.2 million in current expense money for 2013-14, the same as the current year, and $3 million for capital outlay maintenance. The current budget includes $2 million for capital outlay maintenance -- the average amount budgeted over the past several years.

Chairman Steve Keen said he has received calls from the community and his fellow commissioners about the call for more facilities funding, and suggested that there were questions that should be discussed by school officials and county leaders.

Sales tax revenue is one area that has been talked about a lot, Mrs. Holt said. The schools receive 30 percent of the county revenues from Article 40 and 60 percent from the county's Article 42 revenues, she said. The 2012-13 budget estimate is about $3.9 million for the current year -- and the county is on target to collect that amount, she said.

Sales tax dollars are placed in a restricted fund and are based on the amount of tax receipts collected, Mrs. Holt said. The fund is currently at $9.5 million.

"I am estimating that by June 30, it would be $10.1 million," she said.

That fund covers the maintenance capital outlay, which the schools ask for every year. Over the past several years, Mrs. Holt said, that request has been $2 million per year.

"This is also the fund that if they borrow, and commit sales tax dollars to pay the debt, this is the fund that you pay the debt out of," she said. "They do not have any debt that is being paid right now, so that is one reason that the cash balance is increasing each year."

Any debt payments tied to sales tax revenues have to be paid before the money can be used for capital outlay maintenance, Mrs. Holt said.

The money is borrowed under the county's name and is on the county's books, County Manager Lee Smith added.

During the current fiscal year the school board asked for an additional $2 million in sales tax revenues, above the original request of $2 million, to support vehicles and furniture, Mrs. Holt said. That amount was moved over to the school system's maintenance capital outlay fund, she said.

The 2012-13 capital outlay maintenance budget originally had a request for funds for $1 million in roofs and $1 million in small projects, Mrs. Holt said. Then the school board added the $2 million -- an extra $1.5 million in furniture and the rest in vehicles, she said.

Keen asked if that meant the school board started the budget with $18.8 million, then added $1 million, then another $1 million.

No, Mrs. Holt explained. The $18.8 million is for current operating expenses -- not facilities. The current expense and capital outlay maintenance are separate pots of money, she said.

Smith said a look at the history of the current expense fund would show years where there have been increases.

For example, the county picked up funding for summer school after money for it was cut off by the state. That was $250,000, he said.

The county also stepped up with money to allow the schools to expand the Wee Wings mobile classroom, he said.

Also, the county applied for the $15 million in federal Qualified School Construction Bonds for major projects at Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools.

The county also provides additional funds for the school system's success coaches and school resource officers.

"Those are on top of that (current expense funding)," Smith said. "So that puts you over the $19 million mark. Those things are in there, but are not part of that current expense. I think that it is important that you see all of it."

Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he was concerned that the school board had said it needed an additional $1 million and that the school system had received $4 million this year.

"From their sales tax," Smith said. "They could seriously come in here tomorrow and say, 'We have the following projects and need $9 million make the request,' and draw down the $9 million."

"I am just saying that, in fact, they have gotten additional funding," Daughtery said. "I don't think the word is getting out."

Keen asked if the school board had submitted its new budget proposal.

It is due May 15, Smith said.

Keen said he wanted commissioners to understand the funding to be able to respond to questioning by county residents.

"The $10.1 million (in sales tax revenues) is the one that you need to speak on," Mrs. Holt said.