Union County

Public hearing on Union Co. budget set for June 15

Union County residents will have a chance to voice their thoughts about Union County’s budget – including funding for Union County Public Schools – during a public hearing scheduled for June 15.

The meeting currently is the last county commission meeting scheduled for fiscal-year 2015.

Asked if commissioners might vote on the budget at that meeting, county spokesman Brett Vines wrote in an email: “It is possible, however, at this time we have not slated a vote to be taken at that meeting. It will occur no later than June 30.”

The county issued the notice for the public hearing the morning after the Union County Board of Education met June 2. At that meeting, Union County Public Schools’ Chief Finance Officer Dan Karpinski was scheduled to give a budget update.

School Superintendent Mary Ellis introduced that agenda item by saying she had just found a budget addendum – including the county’s proposed allocations for UCPS – posted on the county website.

“Nobody said a word to me,” Ellis said. “It’s all news to me. I haven’t had a chance to review it.”

The online addendum she was referring to recommends the county give schools $91.9 million instead of the $104 million requested by the school board for current expense funding.

The county’s proposed funding is a 5.5 percent increase over the $87 million budgeted by the county for 2015. The school board’s request of $104 million would be a 20 percent increase.

Karpinski also said he had not had a chance to review the online addendum. He told board members that until the state’s new budget is solidified, the school’s budget can’t be finalized.

Karpinski said the original budget was based on the governor’s budget, which has changed.

“It’s a very difficult process, because what we based our numbers on has changed, and will change,” he said.

Members of the school board’s budget and finance committee met at 7 a.m. June 5 to discuss the county’s budget proposal.

After that meeting, school board members Michael Guzman and Leslie Boyd said they were disappointed by the county manager’s proposed budget but hopeful some of the issues could be resolved through meetings of Board of Education Chairman John Collins and county commissioners Chairman Richard Helms and others who serve on a group to discuss financial needs for the schools.

Guzman said the proposed budget suggested there may have been some misunderstandings between the two boards on the use of capital funds and funding for charter schools. For example, he said, the county’s proposed budget uses capital funds to supplement teacher pay, and capital funds should not be used for recurring expenses. He said he hopes these issues can be worked out before the commissioners’ June 15 meeting.

Also at the June 2 meeting, during the public comments, several parents requested that the board install cameras in classrooms used by students with disabilities.

Amy Oster said her autistic son has had situations at school in which Oster felt school staff had failed to keep him safe and had violated her trust.

“By placing cameras in these classrooms, you would give these children a voice,” she said. “These cameras would show what did – or did not – take place in the classroom.”

Kristin Pettler said she pulled her daughter, who has Down syndrome, out of school and began to home-school her after an incident caused her to regress.

Board member Gary Sides said he supports putting cameras in classrooms for children with disabilities. “We need to do this and do it now,” he said.”

Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at jbduckwall@gmail.com.

Want to go?

The budget public hearing will be 7 p.m. June 15 in the Commissioners’ Board Room, first floor, Union County Government Center, 500 North Main St. For details on the county’s budget addendum: http://bit.ly/1F02CyD.