LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday earmarked money for the local school system to boost supplements paid teachers, but also took away some money it provides the system for water and waste fees.
When the math is done, the Public Schools of Robeson County will get $330,000 more in the budget that takes effect July 1 than it did this year. The county is also stipulating that $600,000 for those fees go to teacher pay.
“All of the $930,000 will now be included in the budget ordinance and must be used only for teacher supplements,” County Manager Ricky Harris said. “The schools will now have to pay for county water and solid waste disposal.”
The school system had asked for an additional $3.34 million in funding, but the commissioners did not discuss or consider the request at a previous budget session because they were not aware of the request until the last minute.
The school’s full request was for $3,340,289.30, saying the money would provide $930,968 to increase teacher supplements by 1 percent; $1.1 million to put a resource officer at every school; and other needs, including equipping 300 school buses and 15 school vehicles with GPS systems.
The local system pays a 5 percent supplement, one of the lowest in the state. Local money is used for supplements, and poor counties such as Robeson have trouble competing with richer counties in recruiting and retaining quality teachers.
The 1 percent increase would raise the supplement for a Robeson County teacher making $40,000 a year from $2,000 to $$2,400.
Commissioner Roger Oxendine seemed bother by criticism that the commissioners do not care about education.
“Despite what is said, we do care about education in our county,” Oxendine said as he presented the motion to grant the schools additional funds.
Commissioner Berlester Campbell questioned the school board’s logic for not bringing their budget concerns directly to the commissioners. He also said the commissioners are ready to help the system build new schools when it has a plan.
“We never heard from the school board anything about the need for an additional $3 million,” Campbell said. “We had to hear about it from some individual school board members and the newspaper.”
Commissioner David Edge said it’s not teacher pay that is the major problem with Robeson County’s public school system.
“The biggest problem I’m told by those at Robeson Community College and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is that our kids can’t read and write when they get out of high school,” said Edge. “I challenge our school officials to find out why we can’t teach our children to read and write.”
Board Chairman Tom Taylor stressed cooperation between the two county boards.
“Everyone has to work together, with our main concern being to look after those who are going to make our county great in the future,” Taylor said. “Those are our children.”
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 19. A vote on the spending plan could come the same day.
The budget keeps the tax rate at 77 cents for every $100 of property.
In other business, the commissioners on Monday:
— Approved five conditional-use permits. The permits are needed to establish a storage and auction facility for damaged vehicles in a Heavy Industrial area of Raft Swamp; place a wireless telecommunications tower in a Residential Agricultural District in Wisharts; place a third dwelling on property in a Residential Agricultural district in Orrum; establish a mechanic and auto body shop in a Residential Agricultural district in Shannon; and establish a catering service in a Residential Agricultural district in Pembroke.
— Approved a request that a 30.32-acre tract in Saddletree be rezoned from Heavy Industrial to Residential Agricultural to allow for residential living.
— Heard a report on the status of the inmate Re-entry Program from David Powell, director of the county Offenders Resource Center. Powell is optimistic the pilot program will be funded in the state budget now before a General Assembly conference committee.
— Heard a presentation about the N.C. Development Initiative Capital Small Business/Housing Disaster Recovery Program.
— Appointed Commissioner Raymond Cummings to the Robeson Community College board of trustees. Cummings will replace Noah Woods when his term expires on June 30.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.