Boards discuss future funding

By: By Amber Hatten-Staley - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — Future the funding agreements between the schools and the county need to be in place several months in advance — not a week, a county commissioner said this week.

The current funding agreement between the county and the schools was reached through mediation in 2014 and was set to run out July 1.

“We need to have a target date to have another agreement in place. If you look at where we are, we’re just now approving a dollar amount for next fiscal year, which starts next week,” Commissioner Guy McCook said. “We really outta be doing this at least three months in advance if not six months of the date the amounts go into effect.”

The proposal supersedes the school funding formula which would require Scotland County’s level of local school funding to be equal to the actions of other low-wealth counties — many of which are growing at a faster rate than Scotland.

The Scotland County Schools Board of Education and Scotland County Commissioners both recently passed a two-year funding agreement, which decreases the amount of money the county provides the schools by $150,000 each year. The school district received $10,344,895 for 2017-18 school year, the two-year agreement will reduce that amount to $10,044,895 for the 2018-19 school year.

It took the liaison committee — Commissioners Whit Gibson, Bob Davis and McCook and school board members Jamie Sutherland, Summer Woodside and Wayne Cromartie — nearly a year to come up with the agreement before getting their respective boards to sign off.

The committee also discussed how the projected loss of students could impact funding.

The projection for the county’s ADM or average daily membership, the number of students enrolled in school, is projected to decrease from 5,871 to 5,741 for the 2018-19 school year. A trend that according to projections is expected to continue until 2021 when the numbers are expected to start increasing.

“Since one of the things we’re talking about is long-term growth or decline of ADM (average daily membership) what if we get an update on projections from DPI (Department of Public Instruction) and we’ll get a clearer picture of what the ADM is going to do over the next several years before we try to put something together,” said McCook.

The commissioners said if the number of students continues to decline the amount of funding they provide should follow the same trend. Davis has been adamant that he wants the county’s funding under $10 million, his ideal number is $9.8 million.

When the current agreement expires the funding will be $244,895 away from Davis’ goal amount.

“I think we can manage with $9.8 million, but I am in the vast minority,” said Sutherland.

Sutherland said most of the school board members feel strongly about not reducing the funding any further than what’s already been approved.

The committee agreed to get the county’s local per pupil spending numbers for 2017-18 school year from DPI for their next meeting to try and make a determination on future funding.

The liaison committee is scheduled to meet again on July 12 at 5 p.m. at the county offices, 507 W. Covington Street.

Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]

By Amber Hatten-Staley

Staff reporter