Commissioners Give Johnston County Schools $1.5 Million

Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow appears before Johnston County Commissioners on June 12th. Commissioner Patrick Harris looks on. Photo

Monday night, it took less than 10 minutes for Johnston County Commissioners to allocate a $1.5 million funding request by School Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow.

On June 3rd, Dr. Renfrow appeared before Commissioners asking for additional money for the school system to pay their bills in the current 2018-19 fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.   Dr. Renfrow and Finance Director Art Stanley said last week a shortfall in state funding for special needs children and more students than anticipated who enrolling in charter schools last year created the budget shortfall.

At the June 3rd meeting, Mr. Stanley told Commissioners the school system had approximately $2 million in Fund Balance but that amount would be zero by July 1, 2019.

In a Public Records Request, JoCoReport learned that Johnston County Schools had a Fund Balance of $10,543,610 on May 31, 2019 but that won’t cover all their bills this month.

School officials told JoCoReport they to pay $9,390,131 in supplements in June plus $1,970,575 in other wages.  Other expenses for June including utilities, bills from facility services, items purchased by individual schools or departments, and payment on contracts amount to $5,951,415.  Officials told JoCoReport they will spend $17,312,121 this month, which would leave them with a negative cash balance of $6,768,511.

Johnston County will make a regular monthly payment to Johnston County Schools of $5.4 million on June 30th.  Monday night, Commissioners agreed to give the school system an additional $1.5 million so they can meet their obligations.

School officials point out they have restricted money that can only be used for their intended purpose and cannot be used as the school board sees fit. That includes funds for More at 4, Medicaid, ROTC, Nurses Grants, Wallace Grant, and Burrough’s Welcome.

In a June 6th email to JoCoReport, school officials said they were requesting $1,549,503 from the County of Johnston but in the June 10th request from Dr. Renfrow, the amount was $1,500,000. There was no explanation for the $49,503 discrepancy.

“I’m here to be transparent and answer any questions that you might have,” Dr. Renfrow told Commissioners during the follow up meeting Monday night.  He was joined by Mr. Stanley and School Board Chairman Mike Wooten.

Commissioners had no questions.  Vice Chairman Chad Stewart admitted the school system needed the funds. “It’s clear as ice water.”

In a motion by Vice Chairman Stewart, Commissioners voted 7-to-0 to approve the $1.5 million request.

“We will return on August 1st with any money not spent,” Dr. Renfrow promised.  “We appreciate what you do for all of us.”

Johnston County Schools has an annual budget of about $300 million with approximately 20% of the funding coming from the County. Ten percent comes from the state and 70% from the federal government.

Johnston County Commissioners are still deliberating on the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget that begins July 1st.   County Manager Rick Hester has proposed a 3.9% increase in funding to $66,042,842 for Johnston County Schools but that’s still over $18 million less than the $84,062,810 requested by the Superintendent and School Board.   The county budget must be adopted by June 30, 2019.