We aren’t a club of one in our confusion over the reaction last week of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners to a request for supplemental funding by Robeson Community College that the institution needs to continue operating through this month and June.
The response, which was silence, surely perplexed administrators, educators and students at RCC, and those who are familiar with the college and the services it provides to Robeson County residents and others who live nearby. On Thursday, the college’s trustees met to discuss the situation — the college has about $4,000 on hand and more than $50,000 in bills, a stack that is rising — but their options were limited beyond scratching their heads and encouraging each other to call county commissioners and ask what’s up.
Noah Woods, the chairman of the county Board of Commissioners and an RCC trustee, was conspicuously absent from the meeting. We are told that the commissioners will consider the request on Thursday when they meet to begin work on the county budget that will take effect on July 1, and anything other than the board’s approval of the funding for RCC that day would generate a really large headline in this newspaper the next day.
The other option — padlocking the college — is simply unacceptable.
If there were an election on the horizon, we would conclude that the commissioners were try to send a message to the voters that they are tightfisted with taxpayer dollars, but only one incumbent commissioner is facing a challenge, and that is in November, when all this will be distant past tense.
If, rather, the commissioners are trying to send a message to the college’s administrators, including President Charles Chrestman, to go slow on the spending, their aim is crooked. This isn’t discretionary spending; the money is needed to keep the college’s doors open, and to pay spiraling costs, especially energy and repairs. It’s not as easy as putting the thermostat on 78 degrees in the summer, 64 in the winter and turning out the lights on the way out the door.
The problem is that the county commissioners have been habitual in shortchanging RCC’s request for money for operating the plant, requiring Chrestman to appear before the board in recent years with hat in hand. This time, instead of immediately granting the request, the commissioners decided to add drama to the act.
We would hope that the commissioners, after sending over the necessary check for RCC to stay open through June 30, will fully fund the college’s request for operating dollars for the next fiscal year — and forego the dog and pony show in 2013.
We know that Chrestman and other administrators at the college have better things to do — and would assume the commissioners do as well.