The Moore County Board of Education discussed the expansion of the school police force at its July 11 work session and regular business meeting.
Governor Cooper signed the 2022-23 state budget Monday evening. The $27.9 billion budget has an unanticipated effect on the upcoming year’s Moore County Schools’ budget.
Initially, the school board requested an additional $7.7 million over last year’s operating expenses. School budgets consist of funds from the state, federal and local governments, with the vast majority coming from the state.
This year, Moore County is allotting $50.8 million toward education. It is by far the largest single component of the county budget. The county funds pay for Current Operating Expenses, Capital Outlay, and Digital Learning and Debt Services allocations.
The state mandated an average of 2% salary increases for both certified and administrative staff.
Some of the items included in the original budget request that was not funded include a reduction in class size for grades four – five, a counselor for Crain’s Creek Middle School, a readjusting of the classified pay scale, and an increase in charter school funding.
This is a preliminary budget, and there are several options open to cover these costs, including going back to the Moore County Commissioners or using the existing Fund Balance. It has been mandated that the schools maintain a fund balance of $2 million to facilitate cash flow. The current Fund Balance has a significantly larger balance, and some of those funds would be available.
Moore County School Superintendent Tim Locklair cautioned against using Fund Balance for recurring expenses.
The Moore County Commissioners requested that the school board provide an estimate to expand the Moore County Schools police force to ensure that each school would have an officer present during the school day.
Currently, the Moore County Schools Police force has 13 officers and the chief of police. Two positions are now open, resulting in there being 13 elementary schools not having a police presence.
Pinecrest and Union Pines have two officers assigned, with North Moore High School having one. All the middle schools also have one officer assigned.
The initial recommendation is for the hiring of 12 additional officers. This would provide an additional officer for Pinecrest High School (based on population) and (after filling the two existing open positions) coverage for all the schools in Moore County.
Moore County Schools officers make $45,000 a year with approximately $15,000 in benefits costs. Including equipment and one-time expenses, the projected cost is $425,000 in startup costs and $800,000 in annual recurring costs.
The county also requested a review of physical security needs. That review will be conducted by a school safety facility assessment team consisting of school staff, Moore County Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement (based on the jurisdiction) and the school principal.
One item of discussion at the end of the presentation at the school board meeting was talk concerning jurisdiction. One of the factors in the school shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas was confusion about which officer was in charge. Under questioning from the school board, it was explained that the police force that has jurisdiction is in charge in North Carolina. On school property, the Moore County Police have jurisdiction.
The board also heard an overview of the plans to modernize the gymnasiums at Cameron, High Falls, and Westmoore elementary schools. Currently, there are uncertainties in labor and parts availability, but the current goal is to have the projects ready to bid by January with a projected completion date of February 2024.
The project includes:
Testing for hazardous materials;
Installing air conditioning systems;
Window and door replacement;
Renovation of bathrooms; and
The projected cost per school is expected to be around $2.3 million.
The next meeting of the Moore County School Board is scheduled for Monday, August 8 at 5:30 p.m.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice.