• 66°

BCS proposes budget

INDIAN WOODS – Bertie County Schools are facing two important dates next month, and hopeful of the best from both.

June 8 is when State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s office and the North Carolina Board of Education are due to rule on BCS’ deficit reduction plan. June 30 is when the county budget for 2017-18 will be revealed and the district will learn of its local funding appropriation.

Monday evening at the regular May meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners at the Blue Jay Fire Department, BCS Superintendent Dr. Steven Hill and district Finance Director Lisa Rabon appeared before the board to present their budget request and to give the Commissioners their latest update.

“We’ve had budget issues, and what you probably want to know about is the plan we presented the last time we were here,” Hill began. “We have a deficit reduction plan and it’s been presented for information, and it’s cleared all those hurdles and it’s moving forward and (we) expect a positive vote when they come back on June 8.  We seem to be doing well with our debt reduction; we’re cleaning up our house.”

Hill stated his staff has taken care of the two prior deficits reflected in audits from 2015-16 and 2016-17.

“Now let’s talk about 17-18,” he announced as he presented Rabon, who then presented a summary of the district’s proposed budget for federal, state, and local funding in the next fiscal year.

“Overall we’ve reduced the budget by $1,515,400.74,” Rabon stated.

Based on an ADM (enrollment) of 2,191 students and PPE (per pupil expenditure) used to create the budget, the district was able to come to the $1.5 million reduction.

Commissioner Stewart White asked for the 16-17 budget numbers and Rabon said – combined federal, state, and local – it was $30,540,000.

“We’re trying to be transparent and give you everything,” noted Hill.

Commissioners Ernestine Byrd Bazemore and Tammy Lee asked about the number of positions reduced and whether there would be more.

Hill said, to date, the reduction had been 26.5 positions, but they hoped to finish up with 28 total as voted on by the Board of Education.

“We think we’re meeting the mark, but if the (Feds or state) come back and say another 2-3 percent … !?!,” Hill surmised. “What’s hard to explain is that this is a projected budget and we won’t have the final budget until October; and even after that the state can come back and announced needing (to cut) another quarter million dollars.  We’re at the mercy of the Legislature.”

Lee inquired about cuts at the Central Office, and Hill acknowledged when those take place, Bertie County will have one of the smallest Central Offices in the northeastern part of the state over the next two years.

Commissioner Ron Wesson asked if the district was still on track to make up the deficit of $704,000 and Rabon assured him they were on track to that being eliminated.

Wesson also suggested making the county’s allocation to the schools cost-centered, whereby the dollars could be more easily traced by line item.  Rabon stated that it’s done different ways in different counties.

“This just makes it easier for us to see it, and not know that funds are moved around to different departments where they weren’t planned,” Wesson said. “It would make it easier for us.”

A budget summary was made available to the media and it reflected local funding of $3,073.000; with presumably $3,003,000 earmarked for current expenses and $70,000 from court fines and forfeitures.  The district also proposes $375,000 for capital outlay expenses, but no project detail was given.

Proposed local funding includes:

$350,000 in payment to the Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy charter school.

$50,339 for the Superintendent’s office.

$73,000 for Legal Services

$253,419 for the Board of Education

$13,828 for Human Resources

$75,000 for Financial Services

$625,502 for Schools Maintenance

$176,374 for Transportation

$145,000 for Custodial Services Operations

$871,340 for Utilities expenses

$110,082 for Communication Services

$106,000 for Regular Instruction

$107,216 for Co-Curricular

$10,034 for Regular Curricular

$32,803 for Social Worker

$8,000 for Security Support Services

$32,550 for e-Rate

$9,511 for Media

In a summary document, Hill noted in PPE expenditures, excluding Child Nutrition, Bertie County ranked 8th statewide among the 116 school districts at $11,403 when federal, state, and local funding is aggregated.   Comparably in the region, Northampton County ranked 5th, Gates County ranked 18th, and Hertford County was 25th.

Local expenditures place Bertie 65th statewide, and state funding places the county 6th.

Before the presentation concluded, White inquired about the capital outlay savings if no new activity buses are purchased in the upcoming fiscal year.  He also had a question about the $5,500 lease fee the district receives for the temporary location of the county’s Emergency Services program at Bertie Early College High School.

“The taxpayers paid for Southwestern School (built is the 1960’s, and where BECHS is currently headquartered),” White said. “Now the taxpayers are going to lease for our EMS program to operate out of (the building) until we can (find another EMS location).  We were hit hard with Hurricane Matthew, too; and now it seems like if the taxpayers are going to buy the building, now they have to rent from the school board.”

White asked Hill to ask the Board of Education to waive the monthly lease fee for Emergency Services, and the Superintendent said that he would bring the idea before them.