Vance County school board begins budget talks

Apr. 29, 2013 @ 08:26 PM

Members of the Vance County Board of Education will give the county commissioners a budget request of $11,335,947.

The board met in a work session Monday night, its first with regard to the budget. Members expressed surprise upon learning the county commissioners had significantly pushed forward their budget timetable, seeking to have a budget presentation for the community on May 1 — Wednesday. The school board will likely move for approval of its budget, and provide capital outlay priorities, at its May 13 meeting.

In a unanimous vote before budget discussions, the board awarded a bid for renovations of the Northern Vance High School science labs to H.G. Reynolds Construction Company. The winning bid of $474,600 will also have a $30,000 contingency fund, and with fees and other costs, will top out at $545,850.

Work within the school will be completed this summer and be done in time for students’ arrival in the fall.

The budget commissioners will see as soon as today includes increases of 8.1 percent ($580,720) in local current expense, 52.6 percent ($542,068) in teacher supplements and 366.1 percent ($1,555,719) in capital outlay.

The capital outlay numbers include every request from within the 16-school system and its various departments. Steve Graham, the finance officer for the school system, said each year since the 2006-2007 fiscal year commissioners have provided exactly $425,000 in capital outlay.

Chairwoman Gloria White, with other members nodding in agreement, said the board recognizes not every need will be fulfilled. Graham said the board has to make the commissioners aware, nonetheless, and hence the percentage increase is “skewed.”

“We need more, and we should ask for more,” White said. “We know they’re not going to give the full amount. But they need to know all of our needs.”

The board reviewed a proposed package of 23 facility projects, debt service expenditures, and school and custodial equipment in capital outlay that totaled $509,529. White asked the board to consider adding more to the request, and all board members agreed school security was the area targeted for improvement.

Already within that package is a project to install remote door release/access systems to the front door of each school at a total cost of $45,500. A committee reviewing the possibilities had considered doing each door for three schools, but instead favored each school to get a front door system.

“If something were to happen at a school we didn’t do, we would have been asked why didn’t we do it this way,” said Ruth Hartness.

Board members were in agreement with the committee’s recommendation for front doors at all schools.

The board is seeking an estimate on being able to remotely lock all doors at all schools. No estimate was available Monday.

Included in Graham’s report is a five-year review of the per pupil expenditure, including supplements, from the county appropriation. The state average in 2011-12 was $1,713, and Vance County’s $1,218 figure ranked 73rd of 115 school systems statewide.

The state average is only $43 per pupil higher than 2008; Vance County is $221 per pupil higher than 2008.

If the board’s request of $7,783,160 for local current expense — an 8.1 percent increase — is approved, the figure would rise an estimated $86 per pupil, still well short at $1,304 of the state norm by about $400 per student.

The board’s budget does recognize the proposed 1 percent salary increase mentioned in Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget. Federal planning allotments are not out yet, but sequestration is expected to reduce them by anywhere from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent.

The board’s budget also anticipates an increase in students departing the system for charter schools. Currently, the state lists Vance County with 646 students at charter schools, a number that could rise by 12 percent.

Athletics budgets at the middle and high school levels was also increased in the proposed budget.

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