Bladen County Board of Education to send $8.4 million budget to commissioners

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education gave its stamp of approval to an operating budget for the coming school year Monday night, one that will see a nearly $1 million increase over last year.

The expenses for teachers will go up from $844,742 to $888,897.

“We’ve put together a 5-percent salary increase, but we don’t know what … kind of raise (the state will give) … “ said Finance Officer Sharon Penny. “Without knowing what direction to go in, I put in 5 percent. I’d rather be high than low.”

Central Office administration will go from $417,440 to $533,574, despite a continuing trend in decreasing administrative funds from the state. Penny predicted the administrative offices would see a $100,000 decrease in state funds for central office staff.

“(That) means we have to move state salary and benefits to local funds,” Penny explained.

Non-instructional support personnel will increase from $876,719 to $1,018,109.

An additional $6,000 has been designated for principal supplements this year, bringing it to $64,162. With the loss of $24,782 for a principal’s salary, the overall administrative budget decreases by roughly $18,000.

Retirement will see a 1-percent increase, and health insurance is expected to see a $135 rise per employee.

At issue for staff considering the budget is its declining enrollment. Last year, it was predicted that of Emereau’s 318 students, a large number would be coming from out of county. The 175 students who requested records turned into 298 students, almost 99 percent of Emereau’s enrollment. The money that had to be turned over to Emereau prompted the district to transfer $722,000 out of the fund balance to cover operating costs.

This year, armed with the knowledge that almost all of the students will come from Bladen County Schools, the district is anticipating 180 students will make the move. Again, Penney said she’d rather estimate high than low.

“Hopefully, we will use about $450,000, so that will leave us a little better in the fund balance,” she remarked.

The district transferred $708,000 to charter schools last year, and anticipates transferring $942,000 to them next school year.

At-risk/alternative education will see a $17,000 increase; JROTC will see a $4,000 decrease, and transportation costs will decline by roughly $13,000.

In general operations, a $79,000 increase is expected. Penny said $15,000 is needed to cover cyber liability, citing a recent ransom attack that led to a neighboring county losing nine months’ worth of data.

Operation of plant expenses are slated to see a $300,000 increase, thanks in part to a legislative decision to allow a 19 percent rise in power costs this year. Electric services are expected to go from $790,000 to $950,000. The hit is offset in part by a decrease in telephone expenses (-$27,000).

Overall expenditures are expected to top $8.38 million, compared to $7.47 million last year.

In order to account for some of the decreases in funding and the increases in need, the budget also includes two $251,503 allotments the Board will ask of the Board of Commissioners. The money was laid away in the past for energy performance, but was not appropriated last year and will not be used in the coming year. The Board of Education will request the commissioners give the Board of Education the roughly $500,000.

With the $500,000, the revenue for the system is expected to be $7,180,689. Last year’s revenue was $7,486,907.

Board member Dennis Edwards was the lone vote against the budget.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

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Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal