Southampton schools starts budget process

Published 12:24 pm Saturday, February 13, 2016

Just as it does every year about this time, the Southampton County Public School Board has begun the process of assessing its operational budget for the upcoming school year. State revenue has decreased steadily since 2009, when it was more than $19.35 million, making it more difficult each year for the school to function properly.

For comparison’s sake, last year’s allocated budget was only $17.27 million, a decline of $2.08 million in funding from seven years ago.

Unquestionably, the biggest challenge with this budget is how Southampton County Public Schools can manage with less state funding,” county administrator Michael W. Johnson said at the meeting in which the county’s supervisors approved the 2016 budget. “If local revenues were available to plug the gap, I’d have already included them. But they’re not.”

School board vice chairman Jim Pope, who heads the district’s budget committee, gave a brief statement at Monday evening’s meeting about the budget proceedings.

“It was a long, very detailed meeting, to say the least, but we accomplished a lot,” he said, noting that each of the district’s six principals outlined the various funds needed for their respective schools. “This is the preliminary stages of the budget, but we did have a positive vibe. In some years, it’s just gloom and doom from Day 1. This one is not quite as bad as we’ve had, so we’re encouraged going forward.”

One reason for the optimism is that Southampton saw an increase in student enrollment this year, with nearly 75 more students roaming the halls than the department of education had projected.

“Our enrollment for [kindergarten through 12th grade] is 2,643 students. Our projected was 2,575,” superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish said. “We’re very, very pleased about that.”

After the lengthy process, Southampton County’s fiscal year 2017 budget is expected to be approved in May.