Northampton BOE critical of county’s lack of urgency

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, May 10, 2016

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education met Wednesday night in open session to discuss funding options for the BOE’s plan to consolidate district schools.

A decision was made to meet again in mid-June after the county determines how much money it has for schools in the 2016-17 budget.

BOE member Clinton Williams criticized the commissioners for not providing the school district with adequate funding to meet its capital needs over the years.

“Our school district is in trouble,” he said. “We owe it to our students to provide them with the education they deserve. Not providing the capital outlay needs our schools need will show them they do not have the importance to us they deserve from us.”

On April 18, the commissioners rejected a modified option 4 of the BOE ‘s “The Way Forward Plan,” which called for $1.4 million from the county.

In an April 19 letter, County Manager Kimberly Turner informed the BOE that a bulleted list of reasons the commissioners rejected the plan was not in order of importance:

Citizens expressed opposition for the reconfiguration;

At this time, the only revenue source for additional funding will result in a tax increase;

The reconfiguration requested is only a temporary fix as the Board of Education is still expecting to construct a centrally located school;

The tour of the schools did not show any major deficiencies within those school buildings other than the apparent maintenance neglect and issues that were mitigated;

The reconfiguration is going to affect the majority of the student population as well as Roanoke-Chowan Community College’s service area; and

Northampton County School System is not performing well academically.”

The major reason for rejecting the plan was because the county would have to raise taxes to meet the requested funding, Turner told BOE members last Wednesday.

Schools Superintendent Monica Smith-Woofter asked if an extra $614,000 coming to the county from state sales tax in September could be distributed to the school district.

She pointed out, “We must do something different. We have lost a thousand students over the past 10 to 11 years. We need a more stable and efficient school system.”

Commission Chairwoman Fannie Greene said, “This is a Tier One county. We have limited funds. Let’s develop a plan.”

BOE member Kelvin Edwards said Warren and Bertie counties are also Tier One, but have been able to build new schools.

The two boards argued about plans developed in 2010 to better fund the school district.

They also argued about which citizens they’ve been talking with as the BOE says most citizens support their efforts, but the commissioners say most citizens do not.

Commissioner Joseph Barrett said he has spoken with many citizens, all of whom do not like the BOE’s plans.

Greene tried to close the meeting, but Williams objected, saying, “We need a sense of urgency.”

Turner said until the county government has a better sense of its budget nothing can be done.