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Letters: Defunding Pamlico Schools?
Two views on what's happening with schools
June 3, 2024

amlico County Commissioners are going through the annual budget cycle. They have discussed reducing the School Board Budget.

Following are two letters with diverging view points: the first from Pamlico County Schools Superintendent Jeremy Johnson. The second from Dave Wickersham, Chairman of the Pamlico County Republican Party.

Good afternoon.

I am writing today with an important request. As you know, we have been meeting with our county commissioners over the last several weeks regarding the local budget for Pamlico County Schools. I attended another budget meeting last night and to my dismay discovered that there are multiple commissioners who feel that our schools do not need to be funded properly. Specifically, they are considering no increase in our funding even though we have shown repeatedly that with inflation we are not able to maintain our current services. In addition, some commissioners have also voiced a desire to cut an additional $500,000 to $1,000,000 from our budget. Obviously, we cannot sustain this level of cuts to our budget and the commissioners need to hear from us.

On June 3rd, the county commissioners will hold another meeting and I am requesting that you and your staff make plans to attend. I know that it is relatively short notice, but we need as many of our staff, parents, and students to attend as possible. (Our regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday June 4th at 6pm.)

The Commissioners’ meeting begins at 7:00 pm at the Pamlico County Courthouse.

It has been my sincerest hope to build a positive, amicable relationship with the commissioners, and that is still my goal. We ALL have so much to lose if we cannot develop and maintain a relationship built on trust, mutual respect, and a shared vision for education in this county. However, friends can disagree and I strenuously disagree with some of the things I heard at last night’s meeting. Our children deserve better and we must be their advocates.

Jeremy Johnson Superintendent Pamlico County Schools May 31, 2024

On Sunday, June 2, Wickersham provided a counterpoint to Johnson’s email.

Folks, it would be great if a bunch of Pamlico County residents also known as taxpayers would come to the County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday night, June 3 at 7:00 PM in the Courthouse. The Commissioners have been working hard to trim the budget requests and despite their efforts, we are still about 2 Million dollars short. In order to avoid a tax increase to cover this shortfall, they have made drastic cuts across all departments.

One of the areas under discussion is the School budget and at the last budget meeting, the Board discussed cutting the School budget by 500,000 dollars. The Commissioners did not cut the school Budget they just discussed it. Regardless of what the School Superintendent claims, “…there are multiple Commissioners who feel that our schools do not need to be funded properly.” Nonsense! The Superintendent has requested all staff make plans to attend the June 3rd meeting and voice their opposition to any further cuts in the School Budget. Let me be clear, I was at the last budget hearing and the one before that. It is not a question of the Commissioners feeling our schools do not need to be funded properly, that is an insult and disrespectful. I and others can attest as how hard the Commissioners worked to trim the budget to fund the Departments and provide needed services to County Taxpayers and residents. It is basically a question of not having the necessary revenues to offset the expenses. Significant reductions have been made across County departments and as we all know from our own household expenses, everything has gone up. The School has also made some cuts in their budget request as well. The School has the ability to move money around in their budget, they take the County funding and use it in various ways at their discretion. The County cannot specify where and how they spend County money.

I am asking you to show up and support our Commissioners, they have a tough job to do and I am confident that they would rather fund the school budget fully IF the money was available to do so. An accusation that they don’t want to fund the school properly is unfounded and reckless. If you take the total school budget and divide it by the number of students, unless my math is wrong it amounts to about 22 thousand dollars per student. That seems to be a lot of money for a poor County with a low tax base to me.`. So I appreciate the Commissioners looking everywhere they can to balance the budget. If we can’t balance the budget by reducing expenses, then the Commissioners most likely will appropriate money from our County Fund balance or raise taxes. We need to protect the fund balance for emergencies, like Hurricanes, and this season is forecast to be a doozy!!In order to balance the budget with a 2 Million dollar deficit through taxes, we would have to increase taxes by approximately 15 Percent. I don’t think that is going to happen.

Of course our School is hoping to build a 70 Million dollar new school in the near future as well. The County share of that project is anticipated to be several million dollars. We should be asking a lot of questions about that future expense over the next several months as well.

In closing, I am asking you to take some time out of your normal Monday evening and attend the meeting in the Courthouse. I am sure you will come away more educated about where your tax dollars are going. Please support your County Commissioners as they struggle to balance needs with resources and understand they are not acting in any way like out of touch beaucrats that don’t care about school funding. They care deeply.

Thank you for your support and understanding, please come to the meeting Monday night.

Dave Wickersham Chairman Pamlico County GOP June 2, 2024

County Commissioners meet Monday night at 7p at the County Courthouse in Bayboro.

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