County OKs new budget plan, discusses teacher jobs

By: W. Curt Vincent - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite not expecting to consider the passage of a $56.9 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19, the Bladen County Board of Commissioners made quick work of approving the spending plan on Monday during its regular board meeting.

Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson made the motion to move forward with approving the budget and Commissioner Ashley Trivette seconded that motion to get the item on the agenda.

“I think we should approve the budget brought to us by (County Manager) Greg Martin, including the 2-percent increase for Bladen County Schools and the one-time $251,000 amount (previously set aside for debt service),” Peterson said.

The 2 percent increase for Bladen County Schools represents an additional $134,211 over the 2017-18 budget from the county and gives the school district a total of $6,938,397 from the county.

Peterson also made a motion to approve the new budget and Commissioner Daniel Dowless seconded it. That motion was given unanimous approval by the board, with Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins absent.

“I want to thank each of the commissioners, along with the county manager and his staff, for all of the time and effort during this process,” said County Chairman Ray Britt. “I was excited with what we did last year for our employees and I’m excited again this year.

“We’ve done something the last two years that the public doesn’t see,” he added, “but the rubber-band is being stretched, and we’ll be in the same position next year.”

Shortly after the passage of the 2018-19 budget, Cynthia Chisolm, a kindergarten teacher at Bladen Lakes Primary, went before the board to ask for its help in saving teacher jobs.

“We found out recently that seven teachers have been let go (from around the school district),” she said. “Those people didn’t know it was coming, and they are primarily new teachers with bright ideas and new energy.”

Chisholm said the Board of Education told the teachers there were two options to continue paying the teachers’ salaries.

“We could come before the county commissioners and ask for the $378,000 or we could ask that the county allow the school board to move the money from capital outlay,” Chisholm said. “So I’m here asking what you can do.”

Peterson immediately had a response.

“I’m told there are two reasons (for the loss of teacher jobs),” he said. “First is consolidation and the second are state cuts to the budget.

“It’s unfair for the school board to put this on our shoulders,” he added. “We’re doing all we can for the schools, and I think the school board’s handling of this has been very unprofessional. They need to own their own problems.”

It was explained to Chisholm by Martin that the county board’s responsibility was to consider all of the requests from the school board and other entities when putting together a budget, and then to make appropriations based on revenue projections.

“But how the money earmarked for the schools was used is entirely up to the school board,” he said. “The exception is if more than 25 percent of the capital outlay money is being requested to be moved. That would need the county’s approval, and so far we haven’t been asked to do that.”

The passage of the 2018-19 county budget nixed the planned budget workshop for Thursday, June 28.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.

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W. Curt Vincent

Bladen Journal