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State bills schools $637,938 for Renfrow’s retirement

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SMITHFIELD — The North Carolina Retirement System has sent Johnston County Public Schools a $637,938 bill for former Superintendent Ross Renfrow’s retirement.

Johnston County Public Schools attorney Jimmy Lawrence said the school system will not immediately pay the bill and is appealing it administratively.

“We will not be paying at this time,” said Lawrence. “One of the things we look at when we petition the court is the formula used by the state to determine one’s retirement.”

Renfrow retired in August after transferring Clayton High School Principal Bennett Jones to an alternative school without explanation, sparking a community campaign to reinstate the popular principal. Interim Superintendent Jim Causby has since reassigned Jones to Clayton High.

Dan Way, a spokesman for State Treasurer Dale Folwell, said a bill was sent to JCPS dated Sept. 1. But that’s not the only compensation the former superintendent is receiving from the state.

“The Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System will pay Ross Renfrow $11,353.40 per month in retirement benefits,” said Way.

Renfrow, who retired Aug. 28, received a lump-sum payment of $75,000 from Johnston County Public Schools. The $75,000 payment came from the school system’s unassigned fund balance.

Renfrow will also receive his full salary through the end of August and his current health insurance, including that of his dependents.

In the resignation agreement, Renfrow agreed that the agreement constituted a settlement of any claims he might have against the Board of Education or school district employees prior to Aug. 27.

Renfrow’s salary was $223,189 per year.

The $637,938 bill from the state comes on the heels of Causby’s announcement at the Nov. 12 school board meeting that he will appear before the Johnston County Board of Commissioners at its Dec. 2 meeting and seek nearly $8.9 million to keep JCPS in operation through the school year’s end.

Causby said no funds were wrongly used to create the school district’s dilemma.

“All the funds were appropriately spent,” said Causby. “It was just a matter that fund balance had to be used to fund everything.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Godwin wouldn’t speculate on what might happen if JCPS asked the county to pay Renfrow’s retirement.

“That question is outside our purview. That question should be directed to the school board,” said Godwin. “I won’t get involved in all kind of what-ifs. The matter is between the state pension board and the school system.”