By Diana Matthews
The Whiteville Board of Education heard encouraging financial news Monday evening that they have adequate money on hand to meet anticipated expenses for the remainder of the fiscal year.
In addition, the board voted to lower adult meal prices next year. Teachers now pay $1.35 for breakfast and $3.80 for lunch. Students eat both meals free in the schools’ cafeterias, but they can buy seconds if desired. School nutrition services are “already a good product,” said Superintendent Kenny Garland. “We’re just trying to make it better.”
Most of the items on the June agenda involved money in some way. The board approved a request from financial director Annette Hamilton to authorize a small number of system employees to make electronic payments as an alternative to checks.
Hamilton explained that many vendors prefer electronic payment; she and Garland already use credit cards for some school system transactions. It would simplify some purchases and travel-related expenses to extend that ability to a limited number of other individuals. The employees involved would receive brief policy training this summer.
Board members also defined the maximum money amounts that can be spent in a transaction by the board’s agents. The board is the sole entity with authority to enter into contracts, but it may delegate certain options within the system.
Garland, acting as superintendent with the board’s approval, can make transactions up to $50,000, and principals can spend $10,000 on transactions with the board’s approval.
Hamilton also reported on the remaining state-provided funds on hand in the categories of supplemental pay, annual leave, longevity pay and substitute pay. She recommended end-of-year budget adjustments, moving dollars from one category to another to “clean up the budget,” as she said. Each move corresponded to a policy that justified how the funds were to be used. The board approved all the amendments.
Board member Carlton Prince commended Hamilton for avoiding waste or overspending. “Those four (pay) categories show up again and again,” he said, and can be tricky to budget for.
The board took under consideration seven policies to be voted on at the July meeting, some of which also related to finances. One spelled out employee recruitment standards and contracts for beginning teachers. Another detailed how to account for gifts and bequests received by the system.
“It looks like won’t have to dip into our fund balance,” Garland said in his monthly comments. “It appears we will have a reserve.” Garland said that “a healthy fund balance” for a school system should consist of three to six months’ operating funds, and he thought Whiteville City Schools would have that.
A budget-related June 13 meeting with the county commissioners was postponed, Garland said, but WCS personnel were invited to work sessions Wednesday, June 6, and Monday, June 11. A proposed 3 percent increase in county funds would be on the table.
The N.C. General Assembly appeared to be ready to pass a state budget, with or without Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature, Garland said. The budget would include a 6.5 percent pay increase for teachers, with “bumps” for veteran teachers and those earning master’s degrees.
The additional money will help provide “five or six” additional positions needed “to absorb the growth we’ve experienced,” Garland said. He projected a 72-student increase in city schools enrollment for 2018-2019.
The state budget would provide new materials for Edgewood Elementary School’s library, said Garland. An N.C. House student safety bill needed approval by the senate to hire additional school resource officers, counselors, nurses and psychologists.