Leaders at odds over RCCC request

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2003

WINTON – A request for additional funding pitched by Roanoke-Chowan Community College officials turned into a mildly debated issue between a pair of Hertford County Commissioners here Monday morning.

RCCC President Dr. Mary C. Wyatt was on hand to update the Commissioners on the progress of the college, as well as to bring attention to a projected $63,000 budget shortfall in the money appropriated to RCCC by Hertford County.

The Commissioners were in agreement that RCCC, on the heels of a rocky start to 2003, appears to have weathered the storm and is on the road to complete recovery. Dr. Wyatt made reference to the &uot;storm&uot; during her address to the Commissioners.

&uot;Thank each of you for your support and for remaining steadfast during the storm,&uot; said Dr. Wyatt. &uot;In many ways, this year symbolizes new beginnings; a time for us to reflect on our past, to access our present and to visualize the future.&uot;

Wyatt went on to stress that RCCC’s goal was to work together for the betterment of their students and the communities served by the two-year college.

&uot;I am asking the community to join with me, the administration, staff and faculty as we work together to move RCCC to its next level of academic excellence,&uot; she urged. &uot;Together we can move RCCC from a good institution to a great institution.&uot;

Commissioner Vernice Howard, who is also Chairwoman of RCCC’s Board of Trustees, said it was important to the college and to the community that the school accomplishes its goals.

&uot;We’ve worked through several challenges and our future looks bright,&uot; Howard observed.

Veteran Commissioner DuPont Davis expressed happiness over the progress the school is showing.

&uot;We need RCCC,&uot; he stressed. &uot;I’m a firm believer, and you’ve heard me say this before, that without strong leadership from the churches, the schools and from law enforcement, a community will collapse.&uot;

Johnnie Ray Farmer, Chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners, also stressed the importance of RCCC to the communities it serves.

&uot;Dr. Wyatt, the storm you made reference to brought to light just how important the college is to our county and our area,&uot; he stated.

The discussion then took a different turn when Dr. Wyatt turned the podium over to RCCC finance officers Debbie Green and Leslie Byrum. They made the Commissioners aware that the new Student Center at the college requires additional work from the maintenance staff, the employees funded by the county.

&uot;The state average to maintain a facility of this size is $5.39 per square foot, but the county funding in our budget only affords us $3.86 per square foot,&uot; noted Green. &uot;It is the county’s responsibility to maintain this building.&uot;

Meanwhile, Byrum was pointing out several increases – medical insurance and staff pay raises – in the funds the college disperses from Hertford County’s portion of RCCC’s budget.

&uot;We are not meeting budget for maintenance infrastructure,&uot; he said. &uot;That falls on the host county, Hertford County.&uot;

Using numbers from the county budget worksheet, Byrum then pointed out that Hertford County only increased its funding to the college by $364 from the expenses it incurred in 2002-03 to the new 2003-04 budget. Those hard numbers revealed that the expenses Hertford County was responsible for during 2002-03 amounted to $662,809.76, but the revenue totaled $613,063 ($576,373 from Hertford County, $24,000 from Bertie, $8,190 from Northampton and $4,500 from Gates). That left the college with a $49,746.76 deficit.

Using the numbers from the new 2003-04 budget, Byrum observed that deficit has grown to $62,987.

Farmer quickly interjected, informing Byrum that his numbers were wrong from 2002-03. After asking for a copy of Hertford County’s 2002-03 budget, Farmer pointed out that the county appropriated $549,321 for the college in that budget year, a dollar amount that increased to $576,737 for the current budget year.

&uot;We just gave the college more than a $27,000 increase,&uot; stressed Farmer.

Byrum apologized for the error, saying that he had just been hired in June and inherited mounds of paperwork that led him to believe otherwise.

&uot;Before Hertford County makes any kind of commitment for a possible increase in funds to the college, we need to make sure that the other counties served by RCCC are paying their fair share based upon the number of students attending the college from those counties,&uot; said Davis.

&uot;We’re not here today for an immediate answer,&uot; noted Byrum. &uot;We just wanted to make you aware of these numbers and how we are spending that money. We want to keep the lines of communication open between the college and the Commissioners.&uot;

Howard came to RCCC’s defense, stressing a need for a funding increase from the county.

&uot;There is a budget shortfall at the college,&uot; she said. &uot;I ask this board to give the college the additional funding to help them with their budget.&uot;

Howard went on to say that since she has been on the Board, the county has never fully funded RCCC.

&uot;If we don’t do the right thing, then it’s going to be in the paper again, in a negative way,&uot; she stressed. &uot;We want RCCC to become better.&uot;

In an impromptu poll, Davis asked Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan, School Superintendent Dennis Deloatch and county Emergency Management Director Charles Jones, all in attendance at Monday’s meeting, if their funding requests for the current budget year were granted in full. Each answered no.

&uot;Miss Howard, where is this money going to come from,&uot; quizzed Davis of his fellow Board member. &uot;Every cent in our budget is already accounted for based upon our projected revenues. We do have some money in our contingency fund, but a full $62,000 would basically wipe that out.&uot;

Howard closed the discussion by saying, &uot;The RCCC Foundation (a fund raising organization for the college) is back up and running. This may become a source for additional funding and we are actively seeking other sources of revenue.&uot;

No motion was offered to approve a funding increase for RCCC and the meeting moved on to the next item on the agenda.