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School Board files notice

GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Education served notice of its intent to pursue legal action against the Gates County Board of Commissioners over the level of local funding for the 2007-2008 school year.

In a letter dated June 21 and hand delivered to all members of the Board of Commissioners, the school board served “formal notice that the members of the Gates County Board of Education will pursue with procedures pursuant to General Statute 115C-431 if we are not funded for 2008-2009.”

The letter was presented at the regular meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners on Monday morning in Gatesville.

Board vice-chairman David Brown said, “I was concerned with not being able to give the schools the extra $50,000 this year, but all of the county departments can tell you what they didn’t get. We did the best we could. I am disappointed this had to happen and I hope that this can get resolved without going through a legal process.”

For the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the commissioners included funding of $2.329 million for the Gates County Public Schools for current expense. Current expense includes the normal, daily operating expense needed for the school system to function. Additional funding amounts of $89,000 for capital improvements and $1.25 million for debt service were also allocated.

The total appropriations from the county government to the Gates County Public School System for 2007-2008 is $3.668 million. That figure represents 35.5 percent of the total county budget of $10.3 million.

The current expense amount approved by the commissioners is $58,000 less than what the Board of Education had requested, but unchanged from the previous year.

According to the letter, the Board of Education sought to give pay raises to system employees who are not paid with state funds with the $58,000 not approved.

In addition, the board of education indicated that their budget request next year would “be disproportionately higher than in the past in order to cover two years of current expenses.”

The letter continues that without the additional funding, the Board of Education’s fund balance would be depleted “to the minimum required amount, leaving no room for any emergency situations at a time when the county has no borrowing power and no ability to assist financially.”

During discussions surrounding the $6 million capital improvement plan currently underway at the county schools, Gates County Manager Tim Russell warned both the commissioners and the school board that making such a move and borrowing that amount of money and the debt service that accompanies such borrowing would place county at the debt ratio maximum mandated by the Local Government Commission.

The particular general statute that the board of education referred to in its letter provides a procedure to resolve disputes between boards of education and boards of county commissioners. The statute calls for the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge to appoint a mediator to hear arguments from both sides and negotiate an agreement.

If an agreement is not met with the assistance of a mediator, the board of education may file an action in the superior court division of the General Court of Justice.