County to finalize school funding plan

By Mary Katherine Murphy - [email protected]

LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Commissioners is slated to vote on Monday on a school funding agreement to be effective through June 30, 2018.

Commissioners and school board members reached the agreement through a series of monthly meetings held since last July, and the Scotland County Board of Education approved the formal memorandum this month.

The agreement stipulates that the county commissioners will appropriate $10,583,013 in local current expense funding for the Scotland County Schools in 2016-2017. For 2017-2018, the amount will fall 2.25 percent to $10,344,895.

The liaison committee that formulated the agreement — Commissioners Whit Gibson, Carol McCall, and Bob Davis along with school board members Jamie Sutherland, Pat Gates, and Darrel Gibson — was formed in accordance with a mediation agreement reached last year that set funding levels for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 at $10.6 million and $10.8 million, respectively.

“What we’ve now done is we’ve extended the agreement for two years, we’ve reduced the funding for the two years that we’ve addressed in the agreement, and we’ve got the same limitations or the same availability to do something different after March 1, 2017,” Whit Gibson said during a special county commissioners’ meeting on Thursday. “Hopefully it will never even be important, because by then hopefully we can have another agreement in place that takes us further.”

The agreement also restricts both boards from challenging or attempting to enforce the long-standing state statute which for more than 50 years has determined Scotland County Schools’ level of local funding before March 1, 2017. However, either board may appeal to the court system in enforcement of the joint agreement.

“Both boards would not approach or have any conversation with legislators about the general statute, but at the same time the board of education will not invoke the general statute as a way to increase funding,” McCall said.

Per the new agreement, both boards will continue to designate members to meet quarterly in determining future funding accords.

“At the end of the day, you want both parties to feel like they have accomplished their goals without one of them being thrown under the bus,” said Guy McCook, chairman of the board of commissioners. “I think we’ve done that with this and now we have the opportunity to move to a longer-term agreement that will continue to move toward the goals that we’ve established as a commission and provide adequate funding for our schools.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

By Mary Katherine Murphy

[email protected]

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