Is anyone really surprised Craven County Schools is reportedly $3.5 million in the hole, according to the Board of Education and a recent article in the New Bern Sun Journal?
Their “critical concerns” as pointed out in a PowerPoint presentation obtained by this writer include having less than $500,000 in the Local Fund Balance with the largest portion of those funds allocated to staff.
Craven County Schools’ personnel should be a hot topic now but it’s not. The Board of Education came up with several suggestions for saving money including reducing the number of local teacher assistants and months worked by clerical employees to cutting back on janitorial staff – all to save around $500,000. There’s even discussion around reducing bus assistants in the Exceptional Children’s program. That option would save about $150,000, according to their documentation.
So what we have is a Board of Education willing to make cuts to those who make the least in Craven County Schools. We all know janitors aren’t pulling in six-figure salaries like the superintendent nor are they at the level of the Public Information Officer, who makes around $80,000 per year, according to documentation from the district.
Consider a huge “what if” scenario: Board of Education members step up to the plate and put their money where their mouths are. Each member receives mileage and is provided a salary for their service. What if they actually become public servants and volunteer? That would free up some funds, albeit not a lot, but it might save a few dollars for teacher assistants who wonder each year if they’ll have a job.
What if the board cut back on Superintendent Lane Mills’ monthly allowance for mileage, which totals more than most people’s car payments? Mills receives $750 a month for in-county travel, according to the district.
In a recent report published by the Sun Journal, Mills’ “current pay consists of a base salary of $131,688; a local supplement of $4,135 monthly to total $49,620 annually; $750 each month for in-county travel expenses; $200 per month for personal cell phone and home internet usage; and longevity pay totaling $6,263.01,” according to Finance Officer Denise Altman.
But board members don’t want to talk about their salaries nor do they want to discuss the top-heavy administration. Some of their other options for filling the gap include reducing services in the Exceptional Children’s program, which makes complete sense since the district is in a very public fight with a special needs mom and is also in the middle of an investigation initiated by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding special education services.
This brings me to another option for saving funds. What if the school district didn’t need to hire several law firms to represent itself because it did the right thing for once? According to the last audit, which has been called into question, the district overspent on legal fees by $60,000 during the past fiscal year.
In discussing the audit, I would be remiss if I did not include Chairman Carr Ipock’s assertion during the board’s last meeting that the auditor made some mistakes and no General Statutes were broken, as previously reported. So, I’m guessing the district might want to hire a more competent auditor.
Because this post is getting so long, I will end on one last note. The board hired a consulting firm to redistrict all of its schools this past year. While I don’t have the figures on the cost to the system, one of the solutions to the problem regarding the shortfall or “crisis” is to close a school. Now, why hire a firm, redistrict the entire county, then months later consider the closure of a school because you suddenly realized money’s tight?
Check back for the next article on the school district’s sudden realization they’re broke.
Contact Gisela at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your comments, concerns and questions.