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School district finds funds to repay county

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

NASHVILLE — In an apparently miraculous turn of events, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools suddenly has found enough money to pay off the $800,000 advanced to it by the Nash County Board of Commissioners at the end of the last fiscal year.

In May, the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education voted to accept the $800,000 they were told they needed to balance last year’s budget, even though there were strings attached. The plan was to pay back that money over the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years. One of the stipulations from the county was that the school district undergo an additional audit.

At Monday’s regular school board meeting in Nashville, interim Superintendent Del Burns announced the good news, burying the lead in the superintendent’s remarks at the end of the school board meeting.

“Based on a review of the 2017-18 financial audit of the school district and a review of the revenue and expenditures for the last fiscal year, the $800,000 advance in local funds provided by the Board of Commissioners has been determined to have not been needed. As a result, the $800,000 will be repaid to the county in full and the agreement will be considered void,” Burns said.

The money should be repaid to the county within the next two weeks, Burns said in a later interview.

Last year, financial matters appeared so bad in the school district that former Superintendent Shelton Jefferies recommended to the school board that teacher salaries be cut for several months of the year to help balance the budget.

That suggestion met with outrage from many teachers and local residents and was ultimately nixed as a solution to the budget crisis. At that point, school officials met with county commissioners to begin discussing terms for the advance needed to bail out the apparently cash-strapped school district.

Robbie Davis, chairman of the Nash County board, said in an interview that he welcomes the news.

“I am very excited to see this because it means that the financial situation of the school district is not as bad as they thought it was a few months ago,” Davis said. “I am just sorry the teachers had to go through all that when the cuts were not really needed.”

In a later interview, Burns expanded on the news, though he did not provide details about where the money was found.

“Looking at the financials from last year, we determined the money was not needed,” Burns said. “It was believed that it was needed, but it was not.”

Burns said the school district still has a fund balance remaining, but he is not sure what that fund balance is. An updated report from the auditor should be presented at a meeting soon, Burns said.

Burns said he was not sure how the initial confusion occurred.

“I was not here then,” he said. “The good news is that the district is able to repay the money.”

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