HALIFAX, N.C. — Several Halifax County commissioners are questioning the county's school system and the way it handles its finances.
Last month, the Board of Commissioners advanced Halifax County Schools $280,000 from the county's general taxpayer fund so the district could make up for a payroll budget deficit.
Since then, 17 employees have been laid off and 200 have had their hours cut.
"We're very concerned – upset about the fact they've chosen to overspend their budget," said Board of Commissioners Vice-Chairman Gene W. Minton. He was the only commissioner who voted against a recent allocation of $60,000 for the school system to put a public address system into the new Inborden Elementary-Enfield Middle School.
"There's some money that, to me, should be there that's not there," Minton said. "I'm very concerned about where that money went. I don't think it went to the children."
School Superintendent Geraldine Middleton, who took the post in July, said she did not know then how bad the budget situation was, but added that she believes the school system can resolve the issues.
"We're going to have to look at every decision," she said. "We're going to have to review the need."
Commissioners say they believe the situation is far from over and that they would not be surprised if the schools make additional funding requests in the near future.
"I don't think they have a good handle on the finances – where the money is and how they're spending it," Commissioner J. Rives Manning said.
Commissioners said the school systems' finances are hurting both students and taxpayers.
Former Superintendent Willie Gilchrist previously said he provided the best possible leadership for the county and its students during his tenure. He is now chancellor at Elizabeth City State University.
School board Vice-Chairwoman Donna Hunter said she is still trying to understand the financial situation and is awaiting the results of a state audit on the school system.