Top Priority

Published 9:29 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

JACKSON – Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, the Northampton County School Superintendent, stood before the Board of Commissioners on Monday morning to discuss an opportunity for new construction funding that they “would like to take advantage of.”

At the July 3 meeting, Smith-Woofter presented information about the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. These funds would be grants administered by the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to assist with public school construction.

Smith-Woofter explained that their goal is to build a more centrally located high school for the county’s students.

These Needs-Based Grants are awarded based on four priorities, according to information Dr. Smith-Woofter provided to the Board. These priorities include Tier One designation, a lesser ability to generate sales tax and property tax revenue, a high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and a need to address critical deficiencies in serving the student population.

Northampton County fits the criteria for this funding, according to Smith-Woofter.

The NC Department of Commerce assigns Tier designations in categories One through Three based on factors such as average unemployment rate, median household income, percentage growth in population, and adjusted property tax base per capita. The 40 most economically-distressed counties, which includes Northampton, are labeled Tier One.

There is a $15 million cap per county on these Needs-Based grants. The county would be required to match at least $1 for every $3 in grant funds, translating to a $5 million county match.

“We won’t have this opportunity again,” Smith-Woofter explained, mentioning that Tier One counties can only be awarded grants until the 2020-21 Fiscal Year.

The consensus of the Board was strong agreement with the proposal to apply for the funding.

“It’s time for us to begin planning and move forward,” said Board Chairman Robert Carter, whose sentiments were echoed by Commissioner Fannie Greene.

“I think we need to move quickly,” Commissioner Charles Tyner said, pleased with the possibility. “We need to make sure we can accomplish this.”

Tyner added that building a new high school was one of his biggest priorities, and a $5 million match from the county would be much more sustainable to fund.

Superintendent Smith-Woofter agreed that they’d have a better chance of receiving funds the sooner they apply.

The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund is appropriated from the state’s Education Lottery Fund. Counties that receive one of these Needs-Based Grants will be unable to receive allocations from the Public School Building Capital Fund for the next five years.