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Lack of funding lamented at school board meeting

ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Lincoln County’s Board of Education met Wednesday night to discuss current North Carolina House and Senate education budget proposals.
During his presentation, Lincoln County Schools Finance Director Steve Zickefoose spoke on current concerns with the 2014-2015 proposed state and county budgets.
With the possible state reduction of six teaching positions, he believes the school system would need to spend $300,000 to maintain those positions. In addition, the Board of Education will not be receiving utility true-up funds, which will cost $240,000, the equivalent of five teaching positions.
“The cost to keep the six teachers from state cuts, the mandated salary and benefits increases and for the utilities is $865,000,” Zickefoose said. “After applying the county increase of $120,553, we would need $735,447 to balance the budget. If we use the $647,700 available fund balance, there is still a shortage of $87,747. If we used all of the ‘spendable’ fund balance in 2014-2015, the district will need to reduce $1,365,000. This is the equivalent to 27 teachers.”
Zickefoose also shared his support with the budget the board prepared for county commissioners earlier this year.
“This is the 23rd budget I’ve done for Lincoln County Schools, and this year’s budget was the most responsible but conservative, classroom-focused budget I’ve seen put together,” he said.
Without the requested funds from the county, Zickefoose believes the school system will suffer.
“What we’re having to cut now, we’ll be cutting to the quick,” he said.
Board of Education member Bob Silver shared his frustration with the county’s allotted budget for Lincoln County Schools, labeling it as “irresponsible spending on the county’s part.”
“I think, along with the school board, and once again, we haven’t discussed the issue at this point, that the county has neglected Lincoln County Schools with their budget appropriations for educational funding for our students,” said Silver, who is not seeking reelection this year. “I know that it’s a similar situation in some other case that was brought up last year, I believe, with Union County…that they weren’t getting adequate funding for the students in their county. They sued, and they actually won the lawsuit. I’m not sure of the procedure at this point and the avenues that we can take. We obviously have to be advised by our counsel to see what direction we can take or we need to take, and if this is something we want to proceed with going forward.”
According to board Chair Candy Burgin, the full board would have to schedule a meeting to discuss and consider if a lawsuit would be an appropriate course of action and that prior to the meeting Wednesday night, the board was unaware of Silver’s idea to sue the county.

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