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County approves $800K schools bailout

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Nash County commissioners voted April 30 to provide Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools an additional $800,000 in operating funds for the current fiscal year, but were not happy with the school system’s budget presentation for the coming fiscal year.

The board’s action came at the end of a joint meeting of the commissioners and the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education at Nash Community College to present the county with next fiscal year’s budget requests from the college and school system.

The board’s motion to advance the funding stipulated that the $800,000 be repaid to the county over a two-year period, at the school system’s request. It also included two conditions:

• The N.C. Department of Public Instruction will be asked to conduct a full assessment of the system’s personnel, including “a review of instructional staffing needs, the central office staffing needs and overall evaluation of the school system;”

• A joint committee between the county commissioners and school board “will work together in planning the new Northern Nash Elementary School, including identifying size, location, architect selection and overall planning.”

County board Chairman Robbie Davis noted that previous conditions requested by the county were addressed at an April 23 meeting, including completion of the school system’s annual audit, which is on the school system’s website and was provided to the county, and clarification and subsequent implementation of a county request for a spending freeze.

At that meeting, school board members said they could not meet a county condition not to again threaten reducing teacher pay to satisfy any future budget shortfalls because of “their inability to bind future boards to the request.”

At the joint meeting, Nash Community College’s budget request for a total of $2.8 million next year was received without much comment or controversy.

But the school board’s presentation of its budget proposal, approved by the school board the night before, was not as warmly received by commissioners already unhappy over the system’s budget shortfalls this year.

On April 29, the school board approved a $147 million budget with about $4 million in increases. Most of the funding — $99,430,952 — is expected to come from the state, but the proposal calls for local expenditures of $23,545,619, $20.5 million of which would come from Nash County.

After the budget was presented to them April 30, Nash commissioners were not satisfied with the numbers they were hearing, arguing they were by categories and did not represent genuine spending.

Commissioner Wayne Outlaw was the most vocal critic of the numbers, saying they were not reflective of a real line-item budget and therefore not reliable.

Davis told the school board members his board was “not comfortable” with the figures and said the proposal would be subjected to careful scrutiny. School officials promised to provide any additional figures necessary to satisfy the board, but school board members remained largely silent.

After the meeting, school board Chairman Franklin Lamm of Spring Hope shrugged his shoulders and said, “If they want to see a line-item budget, we’ll show them line items.”

He also said the money advanced by the county would be repaid through savings as some teachers are transferred from state to federal funding.