LUMBERTON — School officials don’t believe the loss of $1 million in state funding because of a drop in enrollment will have a big effect on the system, pointing out that it is a fraction of the overall budget of more than $225 million.
“The loss of $1 million in state funding represents less than .5 percent of our total budget,” said Erica Setzer, the system’s finance officer. “We receive $158,292,361 in state funding, so this loss represents .6 percent of state funds.”
She said the state provides flexibility to move dollars around as needed.
The loss of funding is tied to a drop in enrollment of 516 students from the 2016-17 school year to the current one, which officials believe is related to Hurricane Matthew.
Setzer told school board members on Dec. 12 that the lost state money equates to funding for 12.5 teacher positions. But it’s doubtful any teachers will lose their jobs because the system each year has too few teachers for the number of students.
The school system also can eliminate positions as existing personnel retire or leave voluntarily, she said.
The school board learned at its Dec. 12 meeting that West Lumberton’s Elementary’s student enrollment, 82 for the current academic year, no longer qualifies for state funding of its principal’s position. It had close to 200 students before the storm.
Tara Bullard, who has been the school’s principal since July 2015, will finish out the year.
“Typically changes with principals come in the summer once the current year concludes,” Wooten said.
West Lumberton Elementary was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, and its students have been attending Lumberton Junior High. There has been talk of building a new school that would house West Lumberton Elementary students as well as those at W.H. Knuckles, which also suffered damage during the storm, as well as perhaps two more schools. But those schools would be determined by the location of the new school, which has not been determined.
It’s unclear how long the West Lumberton Elementary students will remain at Lumberton Junior.
“The only thing I can really address is that we are in the process of deciding what our next steps for West Lumberton are,” Superintendent Shanita Wooten said in an email.
Sfl+a Architects, which has offices in Fayetteville and Raleigh, is working on a master construction plan for the system. The first part of that will be finding a location for the new school, which will be based on travel times for the students.
The cost of the new school has been projected at $35 million. The system also has to build a new central office, which is projected to cost $25 million. It most likely will be on recently purchased land on N.C. 711, not far from Pinecrest Country Club.
The system is in a rush to get the master plan done in order to qualify for state grant money that should become available in July. Projects deemed “shovel-ready” moved up in the line when the grant money is awarded.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]