To help educate students in the classrooms of Sampson County Schools, officials are seeking more than $8 million in county tax dollars.
SCS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy recently made a presentation to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners about budget needs. During the presentation, Bracy was joined by Harold Bradshaw, director of auxiliary services, and Finance Officer Stephen Britt. Telfair Simpson, school board chair, also sat in on the conversation.
During 2016, the average daily count of students attending classes was 8,447. In 2017, that amount is expect to drop to 8,346.
“That’s a huge loss for us,” Bracy said. “Students are tied to our funding, whether it be state or local.”
With those totals, the district is seeking $8.18 million from the county. In 2016, the requested amount was $181,500 less. Bracy was thankful for past contributions, which increase each year.
“We’ve come a long way since 2011,” Bracy said about the $6.95 million awarded that year.
Bracy said an economic recession impacted the district. State funding and reversions within several years reduced as well. For the 2017-18 school year, one of the main priorities includes providing funding to impact classrooms.
Another matter involved the low wealth allotment from the state, which is given when a county’s ability to produce local income for public education is below the state average. Sampson County’s increases have not kept pace with cuts in low wealth funding. During the 2015-16 school year, the total was $4.76 million and the district received less for 2016-17 — $4.37 million.
“Even though you gave us an increase that we’re thankful for, it’s still not enough to keep up with the cuts that we’re facing,” Bracy said.
Over the years, Britt said low wealth funding has improved. In 2011, the county was able to provide 64 percent of the what the average county pays. Now, it is at 70 percent.
To save funds, the district made cuts of more than $675,000 to make it through 2017. Some of them include maintenance, technology and driver’s education.
The majority of funds are used to pay teachers, but the district is looking at close to $60,000 in maintenance repairs as well. Some of them include a computer control system for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit at Midway Middle School ($39,000); a new HVAC system for the bus garage ($40,000); and a HVAC improvement in the dining area of Union Elementary School ($30,000).
Listed capital project include athletic training facilities at Midway High School and Union High School. The estimate for each facility is between $500,000 and $600,000. Bracy said Midway supporters are further along in their efforts with $274,000 committed to the project.
Future request for long range capital needs total about $2.43 million. Some of the needs include a total roof replacement at Lakewood High School (LHS); a roof replacement of a 1956 classroom wing at C.E. Perry School; and a roof replacement for a classroom wing at Hargrove Elementary School.
“These items are going to need some attention within the next few years,” Bracy said.
County Chairman Clark Wooten mentioned a parking lot project at LHS. Last year, a presentation was made to the county commissioners. “Those people came before our board in the most professional matter and presented their case and presented their case over two years ago,” Wooten said about the project.
About $2,000 have been raised so far. The estimate for the project is about $55,000. If approved by the board, Simpson said the intention is to begin work at the end of the school year.
Recently, Wooten said he was accosted about remarks regarding a track project at Hobbton High School. During a previous meeting he expressed concerns about transparency regarding requests.
“Next time I see a capital outlay budget, those people should be remembered because they raised private funds and they (presented to you),” Wooten said about community groups making requests.
The official request for the parking lot and other needs will presented during a future session with county commissioners.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.