SMITHFIELD, N.C. — A money crunch has Johnston County school administrators looking for answers.
The school system says it needs $1.9 million more than what was budgeted and may need help from the county to help make ends meet.
County commissioners, meanwhile, have said they will not raise taxes.
A special board meeting was scheduled for Monday night for school board members to discuss a number of options.
In its latest budget, Johnston County gave the school system 4 percent more than it did last year; however, the school population is growing by about 5 percent.
The school system expects to grow by about 1,500 students next year -- enough students to fill 1.5 schools.
"Right now, we're growing by 30 to 40 children a year," said Clayton Middle School Principal Deborah Woodruff, "and meeting all those needs is a real challenge."
While the county builds more schools for more students, school leaders say the budget is not keeping pace.
Because the county commissioners have the final say on the school system's budget, conflict can be expected.
There is perhaps another conflict, too -- the rural Johnston County of yesterday versus what Johnston County is growing into.
"My granddaddy used to say you have to look at your needs versus your wants," said Linwood Parker, president of a local barbecue chain. "Growth enabled me to have six restaurants in the county, so growth pays for itself."
According to the county commissioners and school leaders, it does not always work out that way.
"I think this is biggest challenge we have," school Superintendent Dr. Anthony Parker said. "We have this rapid growth, and that truly means we have to stay above that curve."
Both sides say there may be room to bend on the budget. Impressions may have to bend first.