Wooten Says 23 Job Cuts Are Not Part Of School Budget

Update 9:00pm – School Board member Mike Wooten says the proposed budget approved today did not include Mr. Johnson’s 23 job cuts.  Johnson, reached tonight, said the job cuts are part of the budget recommendation approved by the board.  “It is my understanding we are all in agreement these cuts need to happen. If you have any doubt watch the video,” Johnson stated, saying it was presented and was a part of the budget.
Wooten says it is not true.

SMITHFIELD – The Johnston County School Board held an online meeting this afternoon and approved the proposed new 2020-2021 fiscal year budget.

The board formally requested $76,423,852 from Johnston County Commissioners, which is a $2,731,640 decrease from interim Superintendent Dr. Ben Williams initial proposal.

The school board’s current 2019-2020 local budget is $68,545.918. Even with the cuts the budget request is up about 11.5% over the current year.

The board received a report from Ronald Johnson recommending the elimination of 23 positions at Central Office saving $1.7 million a year. He also proposed reclassifying 5 additional positions to a lesser pay grade saving an additional $150,000.

“There will be no shell games in order to move positions around and create new ones. Make no mistake, these are cuts where the positions would not be filled and money will go to the classroom,” Mr. Johnson said after the meeting, adding the cuts will protect the classroom teachers and supplements.

“I propose these changes in order to save Johnston County money. Also, these changes will protect those working in the schools and essential support staff.”

“It takes votes to get anything done and I want to thank the board members who have supported these cost saving measures,” Johnson added.

Johnson did not specifically name the 23 positions that will be eliminated. The 23 Central Office job cuts will begin immediately and will be completed within 12 months, he said.

“We have to reduce our expenditures. We are in a position where we need to make cuts. Its the first step in getting us out of our financial crisis,” Johnson said during the meeting.

Dr. Williams said there will be additional money in the current fiscal year budget ending June 30, 2020 that can be used in the new 2020-2021 fiscal year budget. He said the additional money was due to schools being closed early because of COVID-19.

Teresa Grant said the school system needs to purchase a math curriculum at a price of about $2 million. “We had our reading curriculum this year. We won’t be able to start a math curriculum the coming year but hopefully… we will be able to purchase it the following year.”

Grant, Mike Wooten and Chairman Todd Sutton described the budget as the most transparent since they had been on the school board and thanked Dr. Williams for his hard work.

Wooten added that a new superintendent should be in place this year to help with the purchase of a new math curriculum and the central office reorganization. Even with the money savings due to early school closures this year, Wooten said finances will be in a strain during the new 2020-2021 school year.

Mr. Wooten encouraged the board to continue to build the fund balance saying every home and business needs a savings account and the school system was no different.

In a motion by Tracie Zukowski and seconded by Mr. Wooten, the board unanimously approved the $76.4 million spending request.

The proposal will be immediately forwarded to Johnston County Manager Rick Hester who is expected to present his proposed Johnston County budget to County Commissioners in the next few days.

By state law, the budget must be adopted by June 30th.

Chairman Sutton also announced a new superintendent should be hired and in place by July 1st. Thirty-one candidates applied for the position.