Commissioners uphold schools' funding agreement

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Amendment to have schools share in county's deficit

By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—The question of whether the county would continue its current schools’ funding agreement weighed heavily on the faces of school board members on the last day of commissioners’ three-day budget retreat.

But commissioners approved continuing the current 36.5 percent funding agreement with one major change to the agreement—the schools would now share the county’s deficit.

The funding agreement, mandated by a 1995 lawsuit settlement in which the board of education sued county commissioners for a share of ad valorem tax proceeds, provides Brunswick County Schools with 36.5 percent of the county’s tax revenue.

The new amendment in the agreement now includes a provision to have schools share in the county’s deficit.

County attorney Huey Marshall added an amendment to the agreement, which modifies the agreement for its life, including the current fiscal year.

The funding agreement stipulates the board of education dedicates 35.75 percent for current expenses and .75 percent for capital outlay.

“It’s worked well so far,” commissioners chairman Bill Sue said of the schools’ funding agreement. “I think it’s given both the school board and us a good planning tool, and you are dependent on the rise and fall of the tax level just like we are.”

While commissioners approved continuing the agreement, Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Katie McGee said Gov. Bev Perdue’s state budget still includes budget cuts that would directly impact the county’s schools.

“We’re all in this together. We’ve got to try and work it out,” commissioner Phil Norris said.

Commissioner Charles Warren asked McGee if any of the state’s $6.1 billion stimulus share would benefit the county’s schools.

Any stimulus money that would impact schools, McGee explained, “Is more about maintaining than it is expanding.”

“We’re definitely losing positions based on the governor’s budget, and this could change,” McGee said.

“The impact is that a loss of one person in a school impacts your ADM [Average Daily Membership], or your membership in those classrooms. A good teacher and low class size impacts test scores,” McGee explained.

McGee said she planned on absorbing any position cuts through retirees, not filling vacant positions and reorganizing the schools’ central office and operations department.