Editorial: Budget battle is yet to come | Editorials
We’ve grown accustomed over the past few years to a fair amount of heated argument and doomsday forecasting centered on the Moore County School Board’s budget request for the upcoming school year.
Someone has always expressed great anxiety that needs will not be adequately reflected in the budget. Not this year.
Although the council is embarrassing in practical and ideological differences, the vote was unanimous to send a request for a local budget of $ 32.5 million to the Council of Commissioners.
But don’t confuse this year’s relative fiscal harmony with a detente or “peace in our time” in the council. The real budget war, ominously looming on the horizon as the new Marvel movie threat, is coming next year.
Key to this year’s unanimous support among the regularly divided council was agreement that a line-by-line review and reconstruction of the 2022-23 budget would begin later this year.
New board members David Hensley, Bob Levy and Philip Holmes have said they want to know “what’s in the budget.” Although Hensley sits on the council’s budget subcommittee, he has repeatedly said he doesn’t know what’s in it.
While it might not have all the financial implications of canned peaches versus fresh peaches in the West End Elementary cafeteria or using copier paper at Union Pines High, it does hurt credulity that he and the other board members do not know the basics of the budget.
Unstated – but strongly implied – is that the overall school budget is riddled with poor spending priorities and misguided costs. The three, who ran in last year’s election, have repeatedly argued that they will impose a business-oriented spending discipline on the district.
Again, the implication is that the district hasn’t done this – that the budget is crammed with salary bloat while schools are starved of basic supplies. This persists despite the annual tax audits that federal and state laws require of all school districts. In addition, dense budget documents called “approved financial statements” exist on the district website for everyone to see and contain itemized pages of all money spent and received.
But these facts don’t seem to interest Hensley, Levy, and Holmes, assuming they bothered to look. They want a full “gotcha!” or, in other words, one of the most micro-managed companies. They have axes to grind and they heat the grindstone.
The battle ahead
At the heart of Hensley’s request for an item review is that he can scale back operations enough to extort money to fund overdue repairs and building upgrades.
“The budget doesn’t factor in the elephant in the room, and the elephant in the room is the $ 110-130 million in unfunded repairs and maintenance of fixed assets,” Hensley said. “I believe that with the new school board we have a real chance to work with the county commissioners to fund the repairs, but we have to earn their trust and we have to come up with an honest plan they can count on.”
Honest? Previous budgets weren’t? In truth, school districts don’t have much leeway in how they spend their money. State and federal funds – the larger portions – must be spent as the State and Uncle Sam say. So there is still a fight for the local allocation of $ 32 million. And most of that goes to salaries and expenses that the state once covered.
In reality, school boards do not control their own budgets. It depends on the county commissioners, who have the final say. Hensley, Levy and Holmes say the district has neglected upkeep and upkeep for years. But in reality, this blame goes to the commissioners who, until a few years ago, did not regularly invest in such an interview.
But the deal has been made and the threat of the Marvel movie is waiting behind the scenes. We’re all in stores later this year for a budget battle royale.