Commissioners OK budget that includes tax decrease

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

The Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a $63.7 million budget for 2013-14 — including a three cent property tax decrease — during its meeting Monday.

Commissioners Amy Dalrymple and Robert Reives voted against the budget, which goes into effect July 1.

The budget ordinance forces the Lee County Board of Education to submit a purpose and function budget, and would require the school board to seek commissioner approval before adjusting a budget item by more than 10 percent. The change, proposed by Commissioner Jim Womack, stems from a controversy concerning the school's technology purchases.

"When we asked about those purchases, twice, we have been denied that information," he said.

After a budget workshop between the commissioners and the school board in May, commissioners asked for information regarding how much money the school board was spending on technology and where the money came from, according to Dalrymple.

"Everyone knows I am a proponent of our school system," Dalrymple said. "Some of the technology comes from grants and aren't local dollars. We were just seeking the information."

The county received a 320-page document full of the school's expenditure spreadsheets, said Lee County Manager John Crumpton, when the information they requested would have fit on a one- to two-page document.

Commissioners voted during last week's meeting to formally request the information again, in a reasonable format, and a letter from Lee County Board of Education Chairman Lynn Smith and Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss was sent to the commissioners in response Monday.

"The county received a copy of our budget in April and placing these demands on our finance staff during the final 10 days of a fiscal close out seemed burdensome and that is why it was easier to send you the entire financial documents as required," according to the letter.  

Several of the commissioners said they were disappointed by the school board's response and reiterated they were making a simple request.

Womack said he wanted to originally withhold $1 million from the school board until the information was presented, but decided it was not in the best interest of the school's educational purpose.

"It's a simple question that doesn't require much of an answer," Womack said, adding the commissioners asked to be notified when the school made technology purchases that exceed $100,000 during a December commissioner meeting.

Commissioner Charlie Parks said he's concerned that the school board either doesn't know how much they are spending on technology or doesn't want the public to know. 

With possible cuts to teaching assistants positions, Dalrymple said she knew of several parents and taxpayers who would prefer money be spent on saving those positions instead of purchasing or replacing laptops and technology software.
No one from the school board was present at the meeting.