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SCS Finance Committee, Stanly County manager differ over appropriation

The Stanly County Board of Education Finance Committee approved a draft of its county appropriation request for the 2020-21 fiscal year at a meeting last week.

The appropriation request was for an additional 2.7 percent, increased to $18.1 million.

Expected funds for the one-fourth-cent sales tax, which was passed in 2018 for public education, was $1 million in the current budget (2019-20).

For the 2020-21 request by the board, this year’s estimated total of $1.3 million was split between the local current expense and capital outlay funds.

The request included $1 million less because of the previous year’s settlement with ALCOA and $500,000 less from a one-time transfer of funds to the local current expense budget from 2019-20.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff James and SCS Finance Director Terry Dudney presented the request to the committee for approval.
James said he and Dudney had not seen the current numbers for the sales tax but understood they were “significantly down” with the closing of many businesses.

Board member Anthony Graves how much was raised by the tax, to which James and Dudney said it was approximately $1.2 million through February.

Dudney said he had asked for a meeting with County Manager Andy Lucas, adding he wanted to “get this out on the table so I would get an understanding of what they’re wanting to do moving forward.” He said he had not heard back from the county.

James said the county’s spending per SCS pupil is $300 below the state’s average because of a lower tax base.
“At the end of the day it’s one pot of money. But it makes us have to move stuff, do budget amendments and things we shouldn’t have to do,” James said.

“If you do your budget right, you shouldn’t have a whole lot (of budget transfers).”

Graves asked if SCS was overstaffed when James took over, to which James said yes and that they were still “absolutely” overstaffed.

“It used to be that the school system was accused of being wasteful, and therefore when (SCS) went to the county (for more money), they would say, ‘Forget it. You’re wasting money,’ ” Graves said.

Graves said SCS has a lot more visibility and understanding of where money comes from and where it is spent, but added, “we are only halfway there.”

The committee passed the request 2-1 with chairman Jeff Chance and Ryan McIntyre voting for the request and Graves voting against it.

In a phone interview, Lucas said that total did not include $316,828 from April-June 2018 which was included in the previous year’s budget. The sales tax went into effect April 2018 and the money was put into SCS’s capital budget.
Lucas said he emailed multiple times to answer questions and set up a meeting, but he had not heard back.

“The unfortunate thing about it is no one takes me up on those opportunities to be educated. It’s easier just to, you know, call us out in a public meeting without all the information,” Lucas said.

In the resolution passed by the commissioners and signed June 2018, the purpose was “to fund initiatives related to public education” which did not specifically limit money to SCS, Lucas said.

“Our board committed to spending that quarter-cent sales tax on public education, and they didn’t make any commitment as to what percentage was going to go to schools, and what percentage was going to go to (Stanly Community College),” Lucas said.

He added according to the numbers on his budgets, SCS should get a minimum of $1.5 million in 2020-21, which will be paid no matter any shortcomings in sales tax revenue.

Contact Charles Curcio at (704) 983-1361, email charles.curcio@stanlynewspress.com, or via Twitter (@charles_curcio).

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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