Moore County’s annual budgeting method has always been a little unstructured when it comes to its public schools. For years, the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education would look at the current budget; estimate new costs and needs vs. impact on taxes and the county’s overall budget; and then come up with an allotment to go with state and federal dollars.
In 2016, commissioners attempted to apply some budgeting consistency. Since education spending regularly was about 40 percent of the county’s overall revenue, it decided to tell the school district to plan on that percentage amount year-to-year. The district’s budget would rise in years when the county had more revenue and contract accordingly in bad times.
That lasted four years. Commissioners last year scrapped it after realizing that it wasn’t really being adhered to by either board.
But now a new plan for school funding has emerged, and while the details have yet to be outlined, the concept has real merit.
A Massive Change
New school board member David Hensley last week proposed the county mimic the state in setting up a per-pupil funding method for Moore County Schools. Funding would fluctuate each year based on state per-student funding and enrollment.
In addition, such a formula would also supply the district with additional local funding to cover cost increases driven — but not funded — by the state. That alone would be a massive change, for the school board is forever bemoaning having to cover the cost of new requirements imposed — but not paid for — by the state.
But wait, there’s more. Hensley’s proposal could address a long-standing thorn in the district’s side: charter school funding. Charters receive per-pupil funding from the state and the county in which that child lives. The district passes that money along to the charters.
In theory, money follows the child, so a student who was in the school district but transfers to a charter “takes” their funding with them. But there are charter school students who have never attended a district school. The commissioners do not allocate money specific to those students. Instead, the district, essentially, has to cover those students from other students’ per-pupil funding.
Hensley’s formula would have commissioners provide real funding for those students, as well as accounting for enrollment increases at those schools.
We can only imagine Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey’s heart bursting with joy at hearing this proposal come from a staunch conservative Republican, but he remained in character.
“Currently there is no funding formula, which leaves us with just a process by which we try to build school board consensus on what the needs are, and what the cost of those needs are and to run that up against what the county projects as its revenues absent a tax increase,” he said. “It would be the superintendent’s desire that the board work with the county commissioners to come up with a funding formula. I think a funding formula, regardless of the metrics of it, would be very healthy for our community and our school district.”
We can also imagine what the heart of County Manager Wayne Vest must be doing about now. Someone should check on him.
Vest and the commissioners have done their level best to keep education spending in check over the years. It’s not like asking for more money hasn’t been tried before. God bless David Hensley if he thinks he’s got a new trick for this old dog.
“There’s not a soul in this county who doesn’t want to get our schools up to speed. I believe the county commissioners will share that view,” he said. “They just need a proposal that they can get behind that doesn’t include tax increases or a big bond issue that needs to be voted for.”
So while God is in the details, so is the devil. Let’s see more on this idea to figure out which.