June 11, 2015

County board, school board reach
an agreement on schools' budget


The Dare County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education appear to have reached an agreement on the schools' budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

Last evening, in the last of two budget workshops, the commissioners signed off on a plan to trim the county's proposed $101.9 million budget by another $400,000 to help the Board of Education fund state-mandated salary increases for beginning teachers.

That's $114,000 short of what the school board would like, but the compromise will apparently work for both sides.

The county manager's original proposed budget was presented at the board's May 18 meeting, and, at that meeting, BOE chairman Ben Sproul noted that the amount provided to the schools was approximately $514,000 short of the budget that had been proposed by school officials.

The $514,000 is what the school board anticipates will be the amount of the state-mandated teacher raises.  The amount is included in the Governor's budget and the House of Representative's budget, but the Senate has not completed its budget yet.  When it has, differences between the two chambers will be negotiated, so the amount needed for the teacher raises might not be decided for weeks to come.

Meanwhile the county and the school board must adopt budgets by June 30, and school officials are hiring and resigning teachers for the next school year.

Since the schools' budget has been an issue each year during budget time, the county boards began meeting last year in an ad hoc group, called the "Five on Five," which consists of five representatives each from the county and the schools. The two teams are led by commission Chairman Bob Woodard and BOE Chairman Sproul.

The "Five on Five" began meeting last fall, and, under then-county board Chairman, Warren Judge, hammered out a new formula to figure the budget for the county schools. The two teams shook hands on the agreement at a meeting earlier this year, which came after two new commissioners joined the board and a new chairman was elected.

The Board of Education approved and adopted the new formula for its budget for the next  fiscal year, but the Board of Commissioners had not.

Thus, the county's proposed budget did not include the money for pay increases and commissioners were hammered by speakers at a June 1 budget hearing for not fully funding the schools' request and not supporting teachers.

After the June 1 budget hearing, a motion was made by Commissioner Warren Judge and seconded by Allen Burrus to increase the county budget by $500,000 to accommodate the teacher raises.  That motion failed by a vote of 2-5.

Then Woodard suggested another meeting of the "Five on Five," followed by another county budget workshop.

At yesterday morning's meeting of the "Five on Five," county manager Bobby Outten presented a plan that would trim the county budget by $400,000 and add that money to the schools' budget.

The money, Outten said, would come from "rearranging and reprioritizing" the budget. That includes:

  • A reduction of $100,000 in what was budgeted for the general fund balance.
  • A $241,000 decrease in what was budgeted for the insurance fund.
  • A reduction of $50,000 from capital outlays.
  • And a $19,000 decrease in a fund for retirement supplements for law enforcement officers.

At yesterday's BOC budget workshop, all seven commissioners voiced their approval of the budget changes, though they won't vote on a final budget until their meeting on Wednesday, June 17, at 5 p.m.

"I was excited to see the two boards worked together so well," Woodward said.

"I'll thank the School Board for humoring me, and bringing the 'Five on Five' back together to work it out," he added.

"It shows we can cooperate," said Commissioner Wally Overman.

"The Big 'C' -- communication -- is very important," said Commissioner Jack Shea.

In a phone interview today, Sproul also voiced approval for the process.

"The process has been productive," he said, adding that the newly elected commissioners now know more about how tough it is to make decisions on the education budget.

Sproul was clearly disappointed that the entire amount of the anticipated state mandate wasn't funded -- after the schools absorbed a $1.2 million reduction last year.

But he said that he thinks the two boards "have a great tool" to move forward with funding the county schools.

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