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Board of Education presents budget request to County Commissioners

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

The Lincoln County Board of Education officially presented its proposed budget to the Board of Commissioners Monday night, though whether the amount requested is eventually granted remains to be seen.

As the Times-News previously reported, School Board members finalized during a meeting last week the amount of additional funding for the next fiscal year that they planned to ask for, with that number totaling $632,947.

The increase would bring their total suggested 2013-2014 budget to almost $18.4 million.

Bob Silver, chairman of the group’s Budget and Finance Committee, explained to commissioners how the additional requested funds would be allocated.

After polling principals and teachers within the school district, members of the Board of Education developed a list of four priority items to fund, which they then ranked and tabulated.

The first of these includes the restoration of 21 first-grade teacher assistants that were previously eliminated, to be added back gradually over a four-year period.

The list also includes supplement increases for teachers, with Silver noting that the district has lost educators to other counties due to “noncompetitive salaries.” There have been no such pay hikes since 2008.

“We need these teachers to stay employed in Lincoln County,” he stressed.

Also among the priority items is the restoration of technology funding, as well as the installation of school resource officers in the district’s middle schools. An allotted monetary amount was not given for the latter, as school officials are waiting to see if funding for security may be available through the state.

The School Board has previously signed off on swipe-key pads and video surveillance for local schools.

“Please give our students these opportunities,” Silver said.

Silver also referenced deep cuts the school system has received in recent years, which Commissioner Jim Klein clarified after the presentation as having been state-level cuts.

Commissioner Carrol Mitchem further confirmed that the Board of Education has not actually received a reduction in the funding granted locally, though it has experienced years with no increase.

LCS Assistant Superintendent for Business Steve Zickefoose said the school district’s budget had been relatively flatlined the last four years.

Nonetheless, Klein warned that it is “highly unlikely” they will receive their requested amount.

“It’s going to be a difficult challenge … to adopt a plan that, in essence, says the state took money and we’re going to replace it,” he said.

Commissioner Carl Robinson echoed his sentiments, reminding school officials that the county, too, has seen its fair share of state cutbacks.

Silver responded that he simply wanted them to “understand our plight.”

“We’re all in the same bucket here,” Klein said, while acknowledging the thought put into the school officials’ plan.

County Manager George Wood reiterated that there are “lots of problems” because of the state’s budget.

Mitchem, meanwhile, suggested for the future that the county cut back on “unnecessary studies,” saying those funds might be better spent in the school system.

“It’s all our schools and our kids,” Commission Chairman Alex Patton said when wrapping up the discussion.

Wood will present his proposed 2013-2014 budget for Lincoln County during the Board of Commission’s May 20 meeting.

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