Superintendent’s final plea for more school funds denied

Published 10:35 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

COURTLAND—Charles Turner fought until the very end for Southampton County Public Schools.

He lost and so did 22 employees.

Five days before the end of his 47-year career in education, Turner during this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting asked for a leftover $530,000 that the county kept from the school district’s 2011 budget. Not getting any of it meant laying off five custodians, a teaching assistant, speech specialist, library associate, dropout specialist, clerk and the nursing director.

“I’m disappointed,” said Turner, who will retire today after 13 years at the helm. “You heard them say, ‘when and if you can document a need, you come back.’”

Law requires Southampton schools to annually return unspent budget dollars to county coffers. And for 16 years, the county has given back that money for the school district’s upcoming budget.

County supervisors in January broke with tradition.

Supervisors voted 6-0 to return $1.1 million of the $1.6 million that was unspent for fiscal year 2011. The board indicated that if the district could prove it needed the $530,000, it would be considered.

When county budget time came around, Turner repeatedly asked for the $530,000, including at the May Board of Supervisors meeting when the county’s $52 million budget was approved and again on Monday night.

Supervisors discussed the matter Monday and voted 6-0 not to give the $530,000 to the district.

“We, the school system, bypassed purchases and some other things to save this money for the very purpose of keeping our people employed and programs in place, and maybe buying some buses,” Turner said.

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter said there was nothing the county could give. Facing a multi-million dollar shortfall, the county approved a budget with no tax increase that calls for a new $200 per household trash fee that will generate $1.34 million.

“We looked at our reserve, which is $4 million,” Porter said. “It’s recommended it be 10 percent of the annual budget, which would be $5.2 million.”

“We didn’t feel like we could reduce our budget anymore,” he continued. “We didn’t have anything we could give them.”

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike said the county doesn’t have the money and didn’t include the $530,000 in its budget.

“We gave he school every penny humanly possible from the resources we had,” Updike said.