Discrepancy in state school operations funding causes concern

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Renovations are needed in schools all across the state and elsewhere across eastern North Carolina.

Walking down the halls of Elmhurst Elementary, it becomes evident that a building over six decades old is in need of improvements.

It’s a similar scene in schools all across the east, but a lack of capital funding keeps many from receiving needed renovations.

“Kids deserve the same opportunities. It doesn’t matter where you live,” said Superintendent Ethan Lenker, Pitt County Schools.

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners says school construction needs impose tremendous stress on county budgets.

“We need the state to pick up and start carrying more of its burden on the capital side because we’re carrying so much on the operating side,” said Commissioner Glen Webb, Pitt County. He said a discrepancy between county and state funding for public schools is part of the problem.

In North Carolina, county funds go towards building, equipping, and maintaining schools.

The state must fund school operations.

“We each have different responsibilities,” said Webb. “And right now, the county is holding up its responsibilities at 98 percent, but we’re also picking up a quarter of the state responsibilities when it comes to operating cost.”

Creating a stronger relationship between the two may help more schools receive the funds needed for improvements.

“They could either pick up more of the capital funding, or they could reduce our responsibility on the operating side,” he said. “Either way, that creates a larger pool of money for us to use to upgrade these schools, especially when you look at a county like Pitt County, that is growing.”

This would allow the schools in need of renovations like Elmhurst Elementary to receive upgrades as needed.

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