Students, parents, teachers and school board members all spoke in favor of the Moore County School’s budget during the County Commissioners meeting Monday night.
And Nancy Roy Fiorillo of the Pinehurst Village Council said the town of Pinehurst would love to give the county money to own its own water system, allowing the county to have more money to use for things like education.
But at the end of the public hearing, the three commissioners in attendance, Larry Caddell, Cindy Morgan and Tim Lea, said they understood the importance of education, but that times are tough and so are the decisions they face.
The Moore County School Board is requesting a $978,000 increase in the budget from the county for the 2010-2011 budget to help with the opening of the two new middle schools. The county’s budget allows for about $625,000, which the school board argues is not enough to get those schools up and running.
Money for the schools, Moore County Schools plus Sandhills Community College, equates to 45 percent of the county’s budget, and this year the county has increased the Moore County Schools’ budget 2.15 percent from last year.
But those who spoke to support the schools Monday night felt that 2 percent was not enough.
Jonathan Wallace, pastor of Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen addressed the commissioners and said “Society can be measured on that societies commitment to education for all.”
Wallace stressed that if schools fail, the community around it will fail also, because new business won’t move to the area and neither will new families.
Ben Owen, III of West Moore, who has three children, two of which are in Moore County schools, said “education is central in how the community will be shaped for future generations. We need to nurture our children and our system and people who make that happen. I hope the teachers and staff positions can remain because if we cut them the quality of education will be hurt or at risk.”
Many of those who spoke Monday night implored the county to support the budget so the schools would not have to eliminate classroom positions. And many military families and residents spoke to say they moved to Moore County for the schools and to cut anything more from schools would take too much away from the students.
Some however, took a stronger approach and pointed out where the county’s money could be better spent.
“I do not envy your position,” started Lori Copper of Seven Lakes. “But I’m not asking for money for prisons, which are for people who choose not to obey the rules. I understand overcrowding, just look at our classrooms. I’m not asking for money for a new courtroom because of an inconvenience for overcrowding. I understand overcrowding, just look at our schools that lost teachers assistants and increased class size. As a citizen, parent and volunteer I’m asking for money for the schools. Last year’s cuts were devastating to our schools. My kids’ school lost six teacher’s assistants last year and our teachers are dedicated and work under various conditions and are resilient. A teacher’s assistant is like the backbone of the classroom. Our schools and students cannot afford more budget cuts. You can alter elsewhere and keep your commitment to the schools. Otherwise, the Chamber of Commerce will have to change its website.”
Many others spoke after Copper echoing the sentiments of those before them.
Students from Pinecrest High School’s speech and debate program also spoke against budget cuts arguing these additional programs at Pinecrest are what help students pick college majors, succeed in high school and gain new opportunities.
Only two people spoke in favor of the county’s budget
Joe Garrison, who graduated from the small Calvary Christian School in Southern Pines, and later Sandhills Community College with an Associates Degree, said his education didn’t have the bells and whistles but that it was still quality education.
While the other supporter said he was pleased the county had managed to raise the school’s budget while it made cuts to everything else.
The county’s budget will be about 15 percent less than it was last year, with no room for salary increases or bonuses, and will leave seven county staff positions vacant, and eliminate four others, still to be determined.
Following the public comment portion of the budget hearing, Commissioner Caddell said, “This gets a lot tougher. All of you know we want to support the schools and our students and we want to do anything we can. We know the sacrifices each of you make and we’ll try to do as much as we can. It’s such a huge part of our budget.”
Chairman Lea was, however, a little less optimistic.
“We are all pro-education here,” Lea said. “We’ve served as trustees on the board of Sandhills Community College, the Public Education Foundation and have a tremendous amount of sensitivity toward education. We understand the importance of educating our children and the cost we have to bear. But just like when we’re home and there’s something we want but the budget won’t allow, we’ll do the best we can to address the needs of the schools and college. We do have to make tough-love decisions and we’ll do it the best we possibly can.”
Also during Monday night’s meeting, the board voted to approve the merging of the Circle V/Vass Fire Department and Cameron Fire Department into the new fire district called Cypress Pointe. This was an effort three years in the making and will go into effect at the end of June.
Other items on the agenda were tabled and will be handled in June when all five commissioners will be available. Commissioners Jimmy Melton and Nick Picerno were out Monday.
The board will have another budget work session May 27 at 5 p.m. and their next regularly scheduled meeting is June 7 at 5 p.m., when they will take action on the proposed budget.