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Schools will get additional $131K

Supervisors in Cumberland County adopted their operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 on Tuesday — one that includes an additional $131,000 to Cumberland County Public Schools.

The additional funds bring the FY 2017-18 school budget to $3.931 million, up from $3.8 million in the originally-proposed budget. The additional funds would maintain the position of an elementary school teacher, fund IT support and provide instructional funds for academic review.

The board’s final vote of $131,000 is a reduction from the $300,000 the school board originally requested. The board of supervisors pulled the additional $131,000 from its miscellaneous revenue section of the now-adopted budget.

Griffin and employees of the school division pleaded to supervisors for additional funds last Tuesday during a public hearing on the budget. The level funding the board had proposed for the school would eliminate six positions, Griffin said in an earlier report. Even if the board granted the $300,000 in additional funding the school had requested, Griffin said two teaching positions and a paraprofessional would be cut.

School leaders previously said the needed $300,000 is, down from an “actual need” of $516,613.

If the school received level funding, Griffin proposed eliminating three additional positions: one elementary school teacher, one career and technical education teacher and one IT specialist.

Kevin Ingle

A discussion of school funds took place before the motion to adopt the budget. Though the meeting did not allow public comment, the board invited Division Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin and District One Representative and School Board Chairman Ginger Sanderson to the podium to offer clarifications.

Some supervisors expressed that the budget increase was not pulled from other sources in the budget, potentially creating further debt for the county.

District Two Supervisor Lloyd Banks Jr. noted that $1 million had already been pulled from debt services for annualized expenses.

“If we decide to give the school additional funding, I believe we would be good stewards to identify reductions in other areas,” Banks said.

He noted that the school budget would not be a one-time expense, but an operational decision that may need to be carried on for fiscal years in the future.

“The only thing I am asking the board to do is balance our budget,” Banks said, “not further resume the practice of digging into reserves for annualized expenses.” 

He said while he identified with the concerns of Cumberland County Public Schools, he said the best solution would be to find other ways to organize the funds.

“I’m not opposed to additional funding for the school,” Banks said, “as long as we look for ways to reduce spending in other places.”

District One Supervisor William F. “Bill” Osl Jr. noted losses of full accreditation from Cumberland County’s elementary and middle schools, noting he would look into supporting the $131,000 addition if the end goal is to reach full accreditation.   

“If these are targeted things that would go specifically for that purpose, then I’m interested in supporting those ideas,” Osl said. “I’m not just interested in just (a)general increase in school funding. What I am interested in would be targeted for getting us back on the path to full accreditation for these schools.”

Members of the board asked Griffin for clarification about the intent of the funds. Griffin said that if the elementary school teacher is eliminated, that classroom sizes would increase when students are learning to read at the foundation level. She added a $25,000 proposal for services that would support students would also be cut.

David Meinhard

“I heard some things that affected me a lot,” District Three Supervisor and Board Chairman Kevin Ingle said, noting that teachers, information technology and education materials are integral to public schools.

“I know that, as Mr. Banks said, we aren’t going to have the funds to cover anything above what the base level of funding would be,” Ingle said. “I just really feel in my heart that, me personally, that we can’t not have some type of action to fund the needs of the school.”

Banks and District Four Supervisor David Meinhard opposed the motion to allocate the additional funds to the school division.

Following the vote, Cumberland Elementary School Principal Virginia Gills shook hands with members of the board of supervisors.

“I think it is fantastic that our board of supervisors has shown support for our schools,” Gills said. “It is a moment that has brought tears to my eyes, and it’s very greatly needed and appreciated.”

When asked if he was pleased with the result of the budget, Meinhard responded “no.”

He continued by clarifying that there could have been other options for Cumberland County to stay within its budget, and referenced eliminating the land-use tax for agriculture and forestry.

Other changes to the budget included a $5,500 transfer from the Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department to non-departmental contingency funds and a $1,400 transfer from the telecommunications budget to the IT department.

The budget is set to take effect July 1.