BURGAW, NC (WECT) - Commissioners in Pender County are responding to the Board of Education, regarding complaints that Commissioners did not provide "adequate funding" in the budget to operate county schools. The two boards sat down in a special meeting June 29, when school board attorney Richard Schwartz outlined the Board's claims.
County Manager Randall Woodruff sent an email statement Tuesday night with the Commissioners' response to those claims. It says:
The Board of Education passed a resolution June 25 saying the amount of money set aside for the schools in the 2015-16 budget is "not sufficient under North Carolina law." The declaration is the first step in a process that will likely send the disagreement into mediation.
"This is the most delicate and sometimes politically dangerous thing that a school board can undertake," Richard Schwartz, an attorney for the school board, said. "You don't step on the goose that could lay your golden egg and do it very lightly, so this is really a decision and a process of last resort. The school board wouldn't be here if it wasn't absolutely necessary."
According to an email from the school system, there is a $2.6 million difference in what the Pender County School Board requested in funding, and what Pender County Commissioners allotted in the county budget (the funding difference for the schools' expense fund is about $1.8 million).
North Carolina General Statute 115C-431 says:
An agreement was not reached during the special meeting June 29. According to Woodruff, "the next step will be a private mediation meeting with representatives from both entities later this week."
David Williams, the Chairman of the County Commissioners, said the School Board's action to move toward mediation surprised him."I'm at a total loss of the poor taste from the School Board," Williams said. "I can't tell you how disheartening this is. I consider it a slap in the face to our board and to the citizens of Pender County."
Williams said adding more to the massive 17.3 cent property tax increase Commissioners passed last week is not an option he will consider. He said it would take adding another 3 cents on the rate to generate the $1.8 million requested for the school system's expense fund.
"We're not raising taxes any more than we already have," he said. "We have to answer to the taxpayers, the School Board doesn't."
According to Williams, another option for Commissioners is not immediately funding the entire $75 million for the school bonds passed last year by taxpayers. He said the Commissioners could fund part of that total now, and fund the rest at a later time.
To see the state law covering disagreements between a Board of Education and a Board of County Commissioners, click here: http://bit.ly/1BFifkk