School Board Approves $95 Million Budget
The Moore County Board of Education has unanimously approved a proposed $95 million budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.
The board’s budget will be presented to the Moore County Board of Commissioners on April 17.
“I feel good about the budget, and due to the proactive decisions made by the board last year, we are not asking the county for an increase in funding,” Superintendent Aaron Spence said after the board’s regular business meeting Monday night in Carthage. “We have a very positive relationship with the county commissioners and hope they will follow the school board’s lead in approving this budget.”
Spence presented a recommended budget of $95.8 million to the school board last month. The school system expects to receive $62.3 million from the state, $6 million in federal funding, and $25.5 million from the county.
During a review of the budget prior to the vote, Spence reiterated his three-part plan to ensure the success of every child by “closing the achievement gap, focusing on literacy and by ensuring students are future ready.”
“Preparing the budget is one of the most important things a superintendent can do,” Spence said. “Once that’s approved we can then move forward to concentrate on doing what needs to be done for the children of Moore County.”
The board also unanimously supported a resolution for eliminating the General Assembly’s yearly discretionary funds reversion. Each year, the state presents funds to local school boards, and then informs the boards how much they must return to the state.
The school system had to reduce its budget by $3.4 million this year to accommodate the reversion, and next year, the system is expected to see a $4.3 million state reduction.
School superintendents have the discretionary power to choose where those cuts occur.
“With 85 percent of the budget going toward personnel, a superintendent is going to have to cut jobs,” Spence said. “The good news is that thanks to the board allowing us to dip into the fund balance, no positions were cut for the coming year. We can’t do that indefinitely, though.
“Since we need to keep the fund balance sustainable, we are asking the legislature to eliminate the discretionary funds reversion altogether.”
Since 2009, Moore County schools have lost 176 positions.
Board member Laura Lang agreed that the process was misleading.
“If you’re going to cut, it would be better to just admit you’re going to take funds back,” she said. “Politicians don’t like to say they’re taking away funding, but they are. Teachers are well aware of this process, but the public is not.”
Board chairwoman Kathy Farren called the practice a “Catch-22.”
“It’s nice that the state lets us decide where the cuts should be made, but the downside is that they shouldn’t be doing it at all,” she said. “They like to say that they fund us 100 percent, but they don’t, and it ends up making the schools look like the bad guys when it is time for cuts.”
The board’s discussion of the budget was not without its humorous moments. As Moore County Schools Chief Finance Officer Mike Griffin prepared to present his budgetary review, Spence reminded him to “keep it brief.”
“There’s a national championship game about to start, so keep that in mind,” Spence said to laughter from the board and the audience.
“You have three minutes,” board member Ed Dennison added.
After a review of the figures, Lang asked Griffin if the $4.3 million reduction was included in the figures. When Griffin said it had been removed, Lang asked him to return the amounts to “make it easier to explain” to the county commissioners and to the public. Griffin agreed to do so.
Farren pointed out that the county received “not one penny” for textbook purchases, a situation she thought “interesting” in that teachers were funded while the materials needed to teach were not.
“We have accumulated funds in anticipation of this (textbook) situation,” Griffin said. “We’re prepared for that.”
Griffin said that about $800,000 was spent for textbook purchases each year.
In other business, Lang asked for the board’s approval to use $450,536 in money from the N.C. Education Lottery to renovate school playground equipment.
“I feel it’s really important to have appropriate playgrounds, so I am asking the board to approve and push forward this application through lottery funds.”
Board member Bruce Cunningham expressed his approval for the project.
“I don’t know of another school system that makes it their responsibility to address the issue of maintaining playground equipment,” he said. “Most rely on PTA bake sales and other fundraising initiatives. This is a very worthwhile project.”
The board unanimously approved the motion.
Cunningham also recognized the winners of the “Growing to Greatness" award.
These included Mitzi Walker, media specialist at Union Pines High School; custodian/bus driver George Green, of Cameron Elemen-tary School; Kyle Kidd, a student at North Moore High School; and Dianne Wyatt, a volunteer at Elise Middle School in Robbins.
Contact John Lentz at email@example.com.
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