Dare Board of Education makes adjustments to balance budget

Published 10:04 am Sunday, April 26, 2020

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The Dare County Board of Education engaged in a phone conference call that was streamed live on April 21 to discuss the big-ticket item of the 2020/2021 budget.

In attendance were all board members, along with Superintendent John Farrelly, Director of Finance Candy Tilley, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Sandy Kinzel, Facilities Director Russ Graganus and Digital Communications Director Keith Parker.

Farrelly delivered the announcements by first addressing the current state of schools in North Carolina, which at the time of the meeting were closed until May 15 under the governor’s orders.

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Farrelly said the district will “wait and see” when another decision is made by the governing body. He felt there weas a “strong likelihood” students may not return to in-person classroom time this school year, so graduation ceremonies and the like will be a topic of conversation at a later date. It was announced Friday afternoon, April 24 that schools will remain closed through the end of the school year.

Farrelly said DCS is well-positioned to take on a remote-learning plan for summer education and to jumpstart the 2020/2021 school year to “prevent academic slide.” So far, he noted that DCS has “hit every mark” with remote learning despite difficult times.

Kinzel reported that the CARES act, passed Congress, could help fund a summer/beginning of school year jumpstart program. The act authorized $31 billion to support K-12 education and projections for Title 1 allocation range between $612,000 and $674,000.

The board then moved onto unfinished business, including a lease approval for a new cell tower at Manteo Middle School and the second reading of revised policies.

US Cellular proposed the installation of a cell phone tower to better serve Roanoke Island. The board motioned to enter into a lease agreement with US Cellular for a tower not to exceed 92 ft. Graganus noted that two additional sublets are allowed and there is a $250 fee per carrier.

The lease will move to the Manteo planning board for approval.

Farrelly and Tilley then led the budget discussion. The 2020/2021 budget must be approved by May 15. Farrelly spoke to the funding from Dare County first. After communicating with Dare County manager Bobby Outten, Farrelly said his message was to “anticipate leveled funding.”

“We would not be provided any additional funding locally based upon the lack of revenue and impacts of COVID-19,” Farrelly noted. The county is not providing less funding then the previous year, but there is a projected $500,000 additional amount that DCS will not receive heading into next year.

Therefore, the interim budget presented was based on the knowledge that DCS would have to account for around $550,000 to $600,000, while taking into account the assumed budget amendments that will come in the next three to four months.

In order to balance the budget, Farrelly summarized the line items that were affected. He emphasized that the intent was to minimize student impact.

First, approximately one-third of compensated funds came from the central office level. About $175,000 was saved in not filling a director position and three administration positions (left empty due to retirements). “We’re just not replacing some folks,” Farrelly said.

Another $60,000 was saved by not replacing a receptionist at Manteo High School, and waiting to hire two teachers at MMS saved around $100,000.

Other trimmings included $26,000 in extra stipends at the high school level, negotiated subscription contracts (saving $55,000) and deferring a $100,000 technological project request.

Tilley highlighted other changes to the budget, including an increase of about $400 in out-of-district student fees. “The fee has been $4090 for several years and has not kept up with changes in funding with the county,” Tilley said. The now $4500 fee came from averaging the cost per student at Waters Edge charter school in Corolla.

Board member Harvey Hess commented on the lack of additional funds from the county: “When looking at priorities, I can’t think of a higher priority than the students that we have and our teachers in Dare County and I would hope that county would look at ways of trimming just like you did . . . in order to provide money for children of Dare County.”

Farrelly noted that objective in trimming was to “keep as many, if not all, employees employed to the best of our ability.”

After reviewing the interim balanced budget, Chair Bea Basnight reminded the board that there is a “99.9% chance” the budget will change after the General Assembly meets on April 28 as well as the county. With that, Vice Chair Mary Ellon Ballance moved to approve the budget and the vote was unanimous.



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