ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Schools spends more on central administration than any other similarly-financed district in North Carolina.
Each year, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction releases reports on the funding and expenditures of all local education agencies in North Carolina. The most recent report, from the 2016-17 school year, shows that, when comparing Bladen County with 13 other districts that have similar budgets, Bladen County Schools spends more of its budget on central administration than any other.
Statewide, an average of 1.1 percent of districts’ budget is spend on the central office. In Bladen County, the number is 2.5 times higher, with the district spending 2.8 percent — or $833,299 — of its $29.9 million budget on central office administration in the 2016-17 year.
No other district of similar financial status spent as high a percentage. When comparing all North Carolina districts with budgets within 20 percent of Bladen County’s (in other words, districts with budgets more than $23,919,201 and less than $35,878,802), no other system had as high a percentage. The nearest system was Anson County, which budgeted 2.4 percent of its $24.0 million on central office. It also spent a just 38.6 percent of its budget on classroom teachers.
When comparing the actual dollar amount spent on central administration, Bladen County still topped the list. When comparing all public school districts in North Carolina, the next three districts after Bladen County in terms of the number of dollars spent are Beaufort County, which budgeted $845,851 out of its $41.5 million budget; Wilson County, which allocated $851,208 out of its $70.0 million budget; and Lenoir County, which spent $852,215 out of its $55.0 million budget.
Just below Bladen County in terms of actual dollars spent on central administration are Henderson County, which budgeted $831,104 out of its $76.6 million budget, and Wilkes County, which spent $829,575 of its $57.9 million on central administration.
The statewide level of 1.1 percent would mean Bladen County would spend $328,889 on central administration.
Two other areas where Bladen County differed from the statewide percentages were concerning special populations. Statewide, districts budgeted 0.3 percent on academically gifted students and 8.9 percent on students with special needs. In Bladen County, 0.8 percent of the budget went to academically gifted students and 7.5 percent to students with special needs.
Bladen County also spent more on transportation than most districts. Statewide, districts allocated 5.0 percent of their budgets to transportation. In Bladen County, 6.3 percent of the budget was spent on transportation. At the consolidation forums, district leaders mentioned the costs of transportation and attributed it to the remote areas and large geographical size of the school district.
The majority of Bladen County Schools’ expenditures consist of funds for classroom teachers. Comprising 43.5 percent of the total budget, the county spent $13.0 million for classroom teachers, just a shade under the statewide 46.7 percent.
Allocations for teacher assistants were pretty much in line with the state. Across North Carolina, districts disbursed 4.2 percent of their budgets on TAs; Bladen County spent 3.9 percent, or $1,153,632.
On a related note, a recent financial audit by Anderson Smith & Wike showed the district to be materially compliant. At the time of the audit last June, the district had $1.2 million in the general fund and $900,000 in the special revenue fund, for a total of $2.1 million. The district transferred $700,000 out in September to cover a decrease in enrollment and subsequent lower-than-predicted allotment from the state.
“It would be nice to add more, but they do have some to spend, and they’re not in a position of dire straits like they were a couple of years ago,” said Adam Scepurek, CPA with Anderson Smith & Wike, adding the district has “really strengthened its position” over the last two years by adding almost $1 million each year to the fund balance.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.