HCC leader leaves empty-handed

Published 5:43 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

JACKSON – For a second time, officials from Halifax Community College requested more funds from the Northampton Commissioners, and for a second time, they did not receive the “yes” they were seeking.

Dr. Michael Elam, HCC President, spoke before the Board at their regular meeting on Jan. 22 to explain why additional funding was necessary.

“No fluff, no pie in the sky,” Elam reassured the Board. “This is just what we feel we need in order to fill the rest of the year out, and accomplish the level of security and the level of quality service that you wanted.”

The community college, which houses Northampton County’s Early College on its campus, requested a total of $72,708. Those additional funds, along with the $97,000 the county originally appropriated to HCC at the beginning of the fiscal year, will go towards salaries for an armed resource officer and a custodian for the Early College as well as covering 20 percent of utility costs.

Elam also reported that there were still a few issues that needed to be dealt with, such as problems with the heating/air conditioning system in the building. He said they planned to use Connect NC bond funds to begin those repairs in the next two weeks.

“We continue to address any issues that come to our attention, and try to make it the best experience for all of our students, including [those from] Northampton County Schools,” he stated.

In June of last year, Dr. Elam went before the Board as they approved their budget for the 2019-20 Fiscal Year. At the time, Elam requested an additional $53,000 to cover costs associated with utilities.

Northampton Board Chair Charles Tyner responded then that they didn’t have the money to increase the allocation because they needed to save some for contingencies. But he encouraged Elam to come back before the Board at a later date and ask again.

After the request presentation at last week’s meeting, Tyner expressed his criticisms about the decision to send the Early College students to the HCC campus.

“The [Northampton] Board of Education handed you our students. They handed you our students without any funds from their allotment to take care of our students,” he said. “The fact of it is, those kids should have remained in Northampton County.”

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner spoke up to explain she originally supported the move to HCC’s campus because it made sure the students were supervised. But in light of learning that many of the students take virtual classes now, she said there was no reason to move from their old location.

Faulkner also expressed concerns for the building’s heating issues which, she said, have been ongoing before the Northampton Early College students were moved there.

“I want our kids to be safe. I want them to learn in an environment they can learn. We’ve got enough problems in our educational system,” she said.

Faulkner asked Dr. Elam how much money Halifax County had allocated for the community college, and he responded with an additional $75,000. She followed up that question by asking if Halifax County had given the college $200,000 when Halifax County Schools started their own Early College program on the HCC campus this school year.

The Northampton Commissioners previously allocated $260,000 to HCC in the 2018-19 Fiscal Year budget to help aid renovations to the building where the Northampton Early College would be housed.

Dr. Elam replied that the Halifax commissioners allocated funds for capital outlay, but the building which housed the Halifax Early College did not need as much renovation. He also noted he did not have the exact financial breakdown with him.

“I’m going to refer this to our county manager,” Tyner said about the funding request. “We got thrown into this by the Board of Education. It was not our fault.”

Commissioner Kelvin Edwards, who joined the meeting by phone, spoke up to suggest that the county manager and HCC officials should meet with the Northampton Board of Education as the funding request is further discussed. He also noted the Early College program is a “golden opportunity” for students to get a head start on their college education.