Bertie approves budget

Published 5:12 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

WINDSOR – The local school budget will proceed, but not with full support.

On Monday night, the Bertie County Board of Education approved the local budget, with a request for funding at the same level as 2008-09, but Vice Chairman Gloria Lee opposed the moved.

Lee’s questions about the budget began early, asking if the item had to be voted on during the meeting when the board discussed changes to the agenda.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chip Zullinger said the county had asked for the budget proposal by May 4 and said it would be difficult for the budget to be adopted by that point if it were removed from the agenda.

Once the item was reached on the agenda, Bertie County Schools’ Finance Officer Pearline Bunch presented the local budget to members of the board.

Bunch said the budget being presented would request the exact same funding from the commissioners as was received during the current year. That funding included $2.75 million in local current expense and $375,000 in capital outlay.

Lee asked how the budget compared to this year’s budget and Bunch said she could do a printout showing the exact figures by line item.

“How do we know this is what we need,” Lee asked. “Maybe we need to ask for more.”

Dr. Zullinger informed the board most departments were being cut by the county because of the current economic crisis.

“In terms of asking the county commissioners for more, I think this budget will allow us to do the appropriate things,” he said. “When the county is struggling and they are willing to fund us at the same amount while at the same time asking others to cut their budgets, I think we’re doing okay.”

Dr. Zullinger went on to say that federal stimulus money would be coming to the school district which would, in his opinion, allow the system to begin school in better financial condition than at any other time in recent history.

Lee said she still had questions and wasn’t sure she wanted to vote on the issue.

Bunch said the commissioners had asked for a May 4 deadline, but even if that was not adhered to, there was a state requirement that the budget be forwarded no later than May 15.

Other members of the board expressed their satisfaction with the budget and a desire to meet the timetable requested by the Bertie County Commissioners.

After some discussion, board member Emma Johnson made a motion to accept the budget and pass it on to the county commissioners. When Chairman Rickey Freeman called for hands in favor, Johnson, Freeman and board members Alton H. Parker and Pamela Chamblee all voted in favor of the budget. Lee voted in opposition when Freeman called for those opposed.

The budget wasn’t the only area of disagreement during the meeting, however, as Chamblee chastised board members and Board Attorney Carolyn Waller because she was opposed to voting on a series of policy changes.

Board members have been studying changes in a variety of policies as a normal part of procedure. They were to be adopted at the Monday meeting, according to the agenda.

When the item was reached, Chamblee complained that she had not received a “hard copy” of the nearly 200 pages.

Dr. Zullinger took blame for the pages not being printed, saying it was not possible to get the hundreds of pages copied during the Saturday he was working to provide the agenda. He said he had e-mailed the documents to each board member.

Chamblee said she was not able to open the item and added, “We can’t vote on this. You can, but I’m not.”

Freeman turned to Waller for advice and she informed the board they could vote on the item if they chose.

Chamblee then said, “No, we can’t. They require a second reading and this is not a reading because we don’t have them (the policies) in front of us.”

Chamblee also said the board retreat was not a meeting of the board.

Waller said the changes did not require a “second reading” and that the policies had been reviewed by the board. She also said the board retreat was considered a meeting of the board.

“It’s not my job to say that you should or shouldn’t vote,” Waller said. “It’s my job to say that legally the board can vote.”

Chamblee again said she did not intend to vote on the matter and closed the notebook in front of her and folded her arms as she sat back in her chair.

Parker said he had reviewed the policy changes and was ready to vote. Freeman and Johnson said they were as well. Lee said she had opened the item, but hadn’t read them all.

After some discussion, Johnson said she would ask that all board members be given a “hard copy” of the policies and the item be placed on the next agenda. The motion carried without objection.