The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local News

June 11, 2014

Pleas mount for budget changes

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 — If Monday night’s public hearing for Stanly County’s 2014-15 budget carries any fiscal influence, there’s still work to do.

County Manager Andy Lucas’ proposed $56 million budget warrants fine tuning based on the public comments of those who spoke in the public hearing at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting. Most of the speakers supported the budget of Stanly County Schools’ Superintendent Terry Griffin. Griffin had asked for a local appropriation of $700,000, or roughly $450,000 more than Lucas slated for the system.

But Kimberly Wilson, director of the Board of Elections, posed the first wrinkle in Lucas’ budget. She requested an extra $180,000 to be used to purchase 36 new voting machines. The Board of Elections is already set to receive an additional $64,500 to fund new laptops and printers to accommodate new elections software.

Prior to submitting a budget, Lucas had recommended waiting until the next fiscal budget year before purchasing the voting machines. Wilson countered, however, that the machines would need to be purchased by January so the staff could have amble time to train in preparation of next year’s municipal elections  instead of ironing out the kinks during a presidential election.

The existing machines have trade-in value of $14,400 toward the purchase of the new equipment. That value decreases the longer the purchase takes, Wilson said.

County leaders suggested they might be willing to buy a portion of the machines early to enable staff training while waiting a bit longer to purchase the remainder and from a different budget.

The rest of the night’s speakers took turns advocating for the funding Griffin previously outlined for the commissioners.

Carla McSwain, a teacher at South Stanly High, spoke about the socioeconomic inequities within the school system.

“I believe our educational system is becoming segregated between the haves and have nots,” she said.

West Stanly High Principal Kim Page advocated restoring teacher assistants to eight-hour days, referring to their one-on-one help with reading, especially in light of single-parent households.

North Stanly High Principal Joy Hathcock championed a curriculum coordinator while Joanne Hesley, athletic director at Albemarle High, supported Griffin’s plan to add cross country to the middle schools and athletic trainers at the high schools.

School nurses and social workers followed by voicing their support to bolster both professions within the school system.

School board members Angela Mills, vice chairman, and Lonnie Chandler, also addressed commissioners, although they indicated they were there as citizens and not on behalf of the school board.

Mills suggested the county needs to help more than ever, since state legislators appear braced for additional cuts in education.

A Senate budget calls for $2 million in cuts within Stanly County Schools. The House is expected to draft a budget later this week.

“I think it is more imperative (for an increase in local appropriations) after the dismal news from the state,” Mills said.

Sherry Vaughn, a concerned parent, told the board that today’s schools are not like those of her generation when teacher assistants, nurses and social workers were not a part of the educational process.

“Back then parents stayed married. There were two parents in the home,” she said.

“It’s not that way anymore.

“When I was in high school, it was taboo to walk around pregnant. That’s the norm these days.”

Commissioner Peter Asciutto appeared open to more educational funding, but he also suggested the school system could become more efficient. He said consolidation and redistricting would net savings, thus providing more educational funding.

Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant, vice chairman, said he would support matching dollar for dollar whatever the system could save from becoming more efficient.

Dunevant also urged school supporters to endorse the sales tax referendum on the November ballot, since part of the proceeds will be used for schools.

Commissioners will hold a budget workshop 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and again at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss possible changes.


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