Request adopted by school board

Published 10:52 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Facing an uphill battle in terms of state and local funding, the Southampton County Public School Board accepted on Monday evening the district’s operating budget for the 2016-17 school year. The district will seek $30,049,018 from the county’s budget — up 6.67 percent ($1,878,526) from the amount allocated by the supervisors last year.

The largest portion of the additional request, totaling approximately $1.13 million, would fund the hiring of nine teachers, two specialists, two custodians, an athletic trainer, a guidance counselor and a librarian.

Superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish said that the district priorities remain the same as every year, as Southampton “want[s] to continue to replace personnel to address student achievement to give [its] students continuous opportunities to achieve and reach that level of excellence moving forward.”

Unquestionably, the biggest challenge facing the school board is how it can manage with less funding, as both state and local revenue have decreased in recent years. In 2009, state revenue was more that $19.35 million. Last year’s allocated budget, however, was only $17.27 million, a decline of $2.08 million.

“If local revenues were available to plug the gap, I’d have included them,” county administrator Mike Johnson said last May, “but they’re not.”

The supervisors mulled adopting a 2 percent tax increase to help supplement the shortfall, but ultimately decided against it. Subsequently, the school district saw an operation decrease of nearly $850,000 from the year prior.

Parrish, whose tenure was overshadowed by the county’s budgetary struggles, said that initial projections show the state revenue increasing to $17.56 million this spring. With that extra amount, she hopes to address issues with the proposed budget such as teachers’ salaries and building improvements before retiring on July 1.

“I want to thank the three members of the budget committee — Mr. [Wayne] Smith, Ms. [Denise] Bunn and Mr. [Jim] Pope — for all the hard work they did working on this budget,” school board chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn said.

“It sounds like a lot, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” said Pope, who chaired the budget committee. “[This budget] is a report of our needs … As always, our goal is to provide a quality education for the students of Southampton County.”