Johnston County Avoids Mediation, Reaches School Budget Decision
Posted July 11, 2002 10:28 a.m. EDT
SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Johnston County's school budget barely made the grade for next year.
The county commission and school board avoided mediation at the last minute by working out a deal at the eleventh hour. Budget battles may be just part of what's to come for North Carolina's fastest growing county.
The county will spend $300 million in bonds to build new schools, and renovate or expand current ones. As a tradeoff, the school board let nine assistant principals go and central office expenses were cut by 10 percent.
Johnston County is averaging 1,000 new students per year. While their parents mean property tax revenue for the county, the schools can only expand by so much, so fast.
"Our budget was really tight, we didn't have a lot of flexibility in what we could do," said James Langdon, Johnston County Commission chairman.
Langdon said that flexibility may have to repeated the next few years.
"While we get more money in the school budget every year, we also are opening a school or two a year. We've opened over 300,000 square feet of school space this past year," Langdon said.
Langdon said this year's budget battle was a lesson for everyone.
"We think the commitment both boards have made is that we will not get to this point again," he said.
County commissioners said the state's budget problems are hurting schools across the state, because some money the state was supposed to give to counties has been withheld. That is expected to continue next year.