COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - School leaders in Columbus County asked county commissioners for more money in the 2019-20 school year budget during a meeting Monday night.
Columbus County School Board members asked commissioners for about $6.4 million in the local budget, and about $2.8 million in the capital outlay budget request. This is around $900,000 more than last year’s request for the local budget, and $750,000 more for the capital outlay budget.
According to Interim Superintendent Jonathan Williams, the money in the local budget would be used for four new counselor positions, four new kindergarten through fifth grade arts teachers, three new school resource officers and five new custodians.
He said specifically the new SROs and counselors are vital to the school system since some SROs are shared between campuses. This proposal would put one at each of the county’s 17 schools.
“It’s becoming more and more prevalent to have those positions, that they’re able to speak to the students and manage their needs from the mental side, from the emotional side," he said. “These are things that must be addressed before we can ever talk about learning, our safety and mental health issues.”
The capital outlay budget includes money for parking lot repairs, tennis court repairs, track and field equipment, furniture and tablets. The school board has until the spring to submit its final budget proposal to commissioners.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Trent Burroughs said the board will do its best to meet the requests, but can’t make any promises.
“We’ll have to look at the (requested) positions. We’d like to do as much as we can, but there’s always budget constraints," he said.
Also discussed Monday is the status of the new Cerro Gordo Elementary and Tabor City Elementary schools set to open in December 2020. According to Williams, those projects will cost a combined $45 million. Right now, school leaders are still finalizing design details. Both Burroughs and Williams said the schools will give the county a boost.
“It’s the first time in almost 50 years that we’ve had new schools built and I think the public at large is excited about it. I think we’d just like to provide more for our students in the county,” Burroughs said.
“Folks look at the education system and when they come to Columbus County, when they come to any county, and they look at the schools, the conditions of the school buildings, it says a lot about how that county or how that area funds education," Williams said.
According to Williams, rebuilding Cerro Gordo and Tabor City Elementary schools is needed because they are some of the oldest in the county. Williams said the hope is to repair others in the future.