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Schools, college seek $9.2M budget boost

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County Public Schools and Johnston Community College have requested $9.2 million in additional funds from the county’s 2019-20 budget.

The county’s proposed budget has allocated $66 million for the school system and $5.3 million for the community college, a 3.9% increase over the 2018-19 budget.

The school system is seeking $1.5 million to meet its end-of-year financial obligations. There were 691 students who transferred to charter schools at the beginning of the year.

JCPS had to return $3.5 million in state funds it received for these students. Superintendent Ross Renfrow said when some of those students decided to leave the charter schools for public schools last fall, the school system wasn’t reimbursed the state funds it lost.

Also, JCPS is asking for $7.2 million for nine items including a 1% teacher salary supplement, instructional resources, a 2% growth bonus at Restart Schools and funds to hire more full-time bus drivers.

“A lot of people charged with driving buses are teaching assistants,” said Renfrow. “We’re trying to hire more full-time bus drivers to keep these teaching assistants in the classrooms.”

Johnston County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Chad Stewart asked Renfrow how many bus drivers were needed.

“We want to hire 60 full-time bus drivers who will drive the morning and afternoon elementary, middle school and high school drive,” said Renfrow. “This will allow them the opportunity to accrue benefits. The need is great, we’re adding routes to our attendance areas. We want to keep teaching assistants in classrooms so they won’t have to be substitute drivers.”

Renfrow said Johnston County Public Schools lost 35-40 teachers this year.

“We’ve got to stay competitive with Wake County,” said Renfow. “They make a push for our experienced teachers because of their supplement. We’ve got to be competitive so we can draw from other counties There’s no substitute for quality teachers.”

Johnston Community College President David Johnson told commissioners why the college needs an additional $495,000.

“We need to hire a safety range manager for the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center,” said Johnson. “That’s a safety issue for us. We have more and more of our county and statewide law enforcement asking to use our facilities.”

Johnson said JCC desperately needs a storage building.

“We’re totally out of space at the college,” said Johnson. “Our lack of space is limiting our ability to teach students. We also need maintenance space.”

Johnson said summer enrollment at JCC is up 10% and fall enrollment is also tracking upward. He estimated an enrollment of 13,000 to 15,000 students in the fall.

“Johnston County is growing and we’ve got to be ready with programs and facilities,” said Johnson. “Companies are screaming at us for employees in fields including heating and air-conditioning and truck driving. With these additional funds, you can help us help you put Johnston County to work.”

County Manager Rick Hester said he appreciated the great working relationship Johnston County has with both the public schools and the college.

No action was taken on the budget requests. The county budget will be adopted at 6 p.m. Monday, June 17 in the commissioners boardroom at the Johnston County Courthouse.