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County schools ask commissioners for $500,000 to cover shortfall

Revised on: 08.3.2018 at 11:16 a.m.

Posted on: 07.24.2018 at 09:43 a.m.

The Columbus County Board of Education Monday night asked the Columbus County Board of Commissioners for $500,000 to cover a budget shortfall in a special meeting that was called at the request of the school board.

Commissioners took no action on the request at the end of a meeting that lasted 105 minutes but are expected to make a decision at their next regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 6.

The county school board also meets on Aug. 6, where it is expected to make what Chairman Barbara Yates-Lockamy said will be some “hard decisions” on how to cut expenses. They will consider whether to shutter any of several schools thought to be under consideration for closure. It is widely anticipated that Chadbourn Middle School, which has less than 100 pupils, will not be open in the upcoming school year but that won’t be decided until the school board meets in early August.

Four of the board of education’s five members pleaded with commissioners for help. The fifth, Monte Herring, did not attend the session. Six of the seven county commissioners, with Edwin Russ absent, listened to their presentations, frequently interrupting to ask questions.

In addition to board of education members speaking, Supt. Alan Faulk and schools attorney Bill Phipps also addressed commissioners, with Phipps spending more time at the podium than either Faulk or any of the board members.

Commissioner Giles E. “Buddy” Byrd questioned published reports that a county schools employee received $30,000 from a federal Dept. of Justice grant for teen courts but both Faulk and Phipps said the grant was administered by Robeson County Schools and that Columbus County Schools had no records of any such payments.

Byrd also questioned published reports that a school employee, thought to be the same employee who received grant money, had driven a county vehicle to meetings but then filed expense reports as if he had driven his personal vehicle and was reimbursed for those trips. Phipps and Faulk acknowledged that had happened, but said that as soon as it was discovered, the employee had to reimburse the school system for the improper payments.

Because the questions about grant money and travel reimbursements involved personnel, no names were mentioned, but it is thought that the employee in question no longer is employed by the school system.

See more details in Friday’s print edition of The News Reporter.

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