Even though no one attended Tuesday night's public hearing discussing the adoption of millage rates and a budget for the county school system, members of the Board of Education waited until 7 p.m. to proceed with their regular meeting - where they voted to re-adopt the current millage rate of 19.21 and approved the $139 million general fund budget for the 2007-2008 school year.
"You might wonder given the attendance that we have - why we are taking this approach," said NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley.
He explained that the 2000 Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires the board to hold three public hearings - one between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. - before a millage rate that is not a "rollback rate" can be adopted.
The required rollback rate for maintenance and operations would be 17.634, which is a bit more than half a mill decrease. This rate would result in the loss of $1.6 million in revenue for the system.
Whatley said the system can not afford to lose $1.6 million with anticipated growth in student enrollment, school construction, a state-mandated 3 percent increase in the salary schedule and 99 percent of the general fund budget going to instruction, pupil services, instructional staff support and media services.
The state has also cut the system's anticipated funds by $1.5 million over the past few years.
"So it becomes very difficult to operate with less money," Whatley said.
He added that the 19.21 millage rate is less than the rate from a decade ago.
At the 6:45 p.m. hearing on June 12 and the 9 a.m. meeting on June 19, public participation revolved around boosting funding for school bands.
Whatley said the board would look at including more funding for bands in the mid-term adjustment next March but said for now they would maintain a "no frills" budget.
The board did include $448,005 in add-backs (previously discarded items) to the budget for salary adjustments, a grant writer and customer service training and audit.
Next year's budget is a 7.5 percent increase from the 2006-2007 budget.
In other news from Tuesday's board meeting:
Thomas Bus Sales asked the system to release their bid for 19 buses because they could not afford the $114,000 they would have to pay for delivering buses later than July 1. Thomas agreed to pay the difference of the next lowest bidder, which was Nalley Bus Group for $22,800. Nalley promised the buses no later than the first week of school.
Ashley Haynes, project manager of the new Salem Road elementary school, reported the building had received its foundation permit and poured the first column on Tuesday.
Within the next 30 days Haynes anticipates workers will finish clearing and grubbing the 15-acre site, begin installing utilities, complete the foundation of the main level, complete retaining walls and demolish the house near the site.
The school is scheduled for a final completion date of May 14, 2008. The system has budgeted $16,850,000 for the project.