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School Board rejects budget

WINTON – No.

That was the simple message from the Hertford County Board of Education Monday night.

After school administrators presented a prospective budget for FY 2007-2008 that would request an additional $1.5 million in allocation from Hertford County, school board members led by David L. Shields responded by saying it was not a budget they could support.

“We’ve been talking hard time for years,” Shields said. “This is not a hard times budget.”

Shields was concerned about cost hikes for travel and other expenditure increases projected by the central office administration.

“I go back to something Mr. (Dennis) Deloatch said about classroom size,” Shields said. “If classroom size is not equal at every school and test scores have not gone up, classroom size is not the problem.”

Shields said he was not happy with the presentation from administrators.

“I can’t vote for this budget,” he said. “For me, there is too much stuff in here. The county commissioners can’t fund this budget. It is the same budget that I’ve seen for six years.

“I was hoping this year we would have a realistic budget,” he continued. “This is pie in the sky. I don’t know how many man-hours were spent preparing this, but it was wasted. It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Shields continued saying he wasn’t saying the items contained in the budget weren’t needed, but that they weren’t realistic.

“The county commissioners are not going to raise taxes 10 to 15 cents to fund this budget,” he said. “We need to send what we need and cut out the fat.”

Board member Ronald G. Baker said the board had no choice but to cut out the fat because they weren’t going to receive $1.5 million in new funding.

Shields then said, “I have hoped for the six years I’ve been on this board that we would get a realistic budget so we could show what we need.

“The reason I’m not voting for it is because my name is on it and I’m not going to have my name on this when it goes across the street,” he continued. “This is a joke. I’m sorry, but this isn’t reasonable.”

Board member J. Wendell Hall asked if it were necessary to vote today and was told that it had to be done soon.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael G. Basham said he understood the concerns, but “It takes money to educate children.”

Shields responded, “I know, but nobody has a printing press across the street. Nobody over there is printing money, they do that in Washington, D.C.”

Shields said every year since he came on the board, the district had sent funding increase requests in the neighborhood of $1.6 million and that it wasn’t helping the board’s relationship with the commissioners to send such a budget.

“We have to do something because I won’t vote for a budget that spends one dime of fund balance,” Baker said. “We will have to live with state, federal and local allotments and it’s going to be a lot less than this.”

Shields said the budget may be tough and include personnel decisions, but reminded board members that tough decisions were the reason they were elected.

Deloatch, also a board member, said he agreed with much of what Shields said and pointed out an increase of more than $300,000 in instructional administration.

“You don’t have to explain it right now,” he said. “What I’m saying is that I need to know a lot more about this budget before I can vote for it.”

Hall suggested the board meet in a work session to discuss the budget and the group agreed to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 4.

Board of Education Chairman John D. Horton said time was becoming precious and said they would have to work diligently to get the budget done. He also reminded the superintendent of the work he would like to have done before Wednesday.

“I think the board still expects Central Office to do some work before we do ours,” he said.

“Cut some fat,” Baker added, “and maybe cut some lean.”

The budget as presented took into account a five percent increase for salaries for teachers and administrators and two percent for other employees as well as

an increase in transportation, maintaining all current positions and continuing a three percent supplement for certified staff and one percent for classified staff.

It did not allocate any money from the school district’s fund balance, which has dropped to $433,000. It is only 29 percent of the recommended number for school districts.

Last year the Hertford County Board of Education received $3.76 million in funding from the Hertford County Commissioners.