School board passes $147M budget

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After a tumultuous year punctuated by questions regarding a mounting budget deficit and a proposed, and ultimately canceled, plan to slash teacher salaries, the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education decided Monday to approve a $147 million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year with about $4 million in increases.

The board approved the budget proposal in a special meeting after reviewing and making revisions over a two-week period, ahead of its Tuesday meeting with Nash and Edgecombe boards of commissioners for a formal presentation followed by a question-and-answer period. However, some school board members had questions regarding budget line items.

“I’ve kind of gotten the feedback that with what we presented there isn’t a lot of discussion, that there isn’t enough meat to help them,” District 6 board member Lank Dunton said. “This is kind of the summary report, and what they would like to see and be made available to them, and what I’d also like to see as a board member is a budget to kind of break down line by line. I know that’s an overwhelming amount of information, but at some point in this process does that enter in? Is that part of it, or is this what we have to present to them?”

Dunton, a first-term school board official, said he was asking questions in response to feedback received after reaching out to commissioners to gain a better understanding of the budget approval process.

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Superintendent Shelton Jeffries said the budget proposal was consistent with what has been presented in past years, with commissioners typically asking and receiving answers to specific questions during the joint meeting.

Both board Chairman Franklin Lamm of District 3 and Vice Chairwoman Ann Edge of District 11 said they, along with Jeffries, had a productive meeting last Thursday with Nash County Commissioners Wayne Outlaw and Robbie Davis and were surprised to hear of any potential issues.

“I thought we left that meeting on a positive note. We were very transparent on both sides. It was a very good meeting to develop a relationship with our commissioners so we continue to work together. But I’ve always resented politics going behind my back to do something like we’re not being transparent here in this office with our finance department,” Edge said.

District 5 board member Bill Sharpe said that going forward, a summary of top-level meetings for the rest of the board would help provide additional clarity.

Dean Edwards of District 2, who represents the southern Nash County portion of the district, asked why the board should approve a budget increase when there is a reported $2.8 million deficit for the 2018-19 school year.

“When I come in and we’re deep in the hole, I just don’t think the community wants to see that again,” Edwards said. “We’re a little tensed up because we’ve just come off of a situation where we had teachers that were upset over that 35% deal. Luckily, we eased that down, too. But I just want to see this board responsible enough not to put themselves in that situation again.”

Edwards was the lone dissenter on the motion to approve the budget.

The budget’s largest increase is for classroom teachers, which increased from $45,361,449 for the 2018-19 school year to $49,194,227 for the 2019-20 school year. Other budgetary increases were included for school administrators, instructional support personnel including nurses, guidance counselors and social workers, career and technical education teachers and teacher assistants.

The school board is also requesting an increase to update surveillance equipment and staff additional school resource officers at elementary schools.

The board lists protecting the classroom by minimizing the impact to classroom teachers and ensuring increased student safety as budgetary priorities.

The regularly scheduled school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 6.

Joint Meeting Coverage

Tuesday’s meeting between the school board and Nash and Edgecombe county commissioners was scheduled to occur after this week’s edition of The Enterprise went to press. Visit SpringHopeEnterprise.com later this week for coverage from the joint meeting.