County budget talk continues to ruffle feathers

·4 min read

Jun. 24—LAURINBURG — Scotland County Commissioner John Alford is not happy about comments from school and county board members after the new school system budget of $9.85 million was announced.

"I just want to voice my concerns on what Darrel 'B.J.' Gibson and Rick Singletary have said about our decision and how it came about," said Alford. "'B.J.' has alleged that there have been meetings in which he was not privy to and, quite honestly, I am offended by that."

What was said

"My main frustration is, as the Liaison Committee left our meeting we knew the number that would be proposed was $9.9 million, with $10.044 million being what the school system preferred," Gibson said on Tuesday. "However, while I was in support of this, my fellow commissioners on the Liaison Committee were not in favor of the higher number and I knew most commissioners would not be either.

"I understand that it does not seem like a big difference, but the issue is not just the amount, but it also brings to question the transparency between the Liaison Committee and the commissioners," Gibson added. "There was no public discussion about the change and it suggested other conversations had been had, which some commissioners such as myself were not privy to.

"While I support the pay raise (for the Sheriff's Office) 100%," Gibson continued, "during the last meeting Sheriff Kersey was asking for a 15% raise. The last conversation I was a part of discussed giving them an initial 2% and then later giving them a 5.5% raise. This would have equaled out to 7.5%, which is half of what was being asked for. Somewhere between then and now, that changed.

"Again, while I agree they deserve a raise, those raises are being given off the backs of our children and the decrease in money does not leave room for our schools to grow," he concluded.

BOE Chair Rick Singletary simply stated he was disappointed with the lower number being given to the schools.

Alford fires back

Alford also said he has not had or been part of an unadvertised meeting in the 18 years he has been a member of the board.

"It has been made to look like money is being taken away from the classrooms in our school system, and that is just not the case," said Alford. "This money does not affect the classrooms. The money being used for that is coming from the state. 'B.J.' is the only one saying that it does."

He added that the Board of Commissioners has the best interest of the school system and the children being educated at heart.

"We would never defund the school of money that would affect the education these children are getting," said Alford. "Now, if it were to come about that our calculations are not accurate, I am sure we as a board would do what was necessary to correct that.

"This budget allows us to finally be able to do something for our county employees," added Alford."The taxpayers need to know the truth and what is really being done."

Alford also said he is hoping the school board and commissioners will move forward from this.

"I want us all to be able to discuss these issues and to carry on with the Liaison Committee meetings," said Alford. "I hope that we can continue to work together to continue bettering Scotland County."

Commissioner Whit Gibson chimed in on the conversation as well and shared some of his thoughts on the issue.

"I definitely did not like the tenor of their comments," said Alford. "I think 'B.J.' knew coming into the meeting Monday that I was coming to the table to recommend a number of $9.9 million, which is not what the board decided to pass."

Gibson also said he is not aware of any secret meetings.

"That I know of there have been no such meetings," said Gibson. "Of course there have been individual commissioners who have had discussions about the budget.

"I also understand Rick's disappointment, I am disappointed as well," he added. "I had hoped we would have been able to agree on the $9.9 million, but that is not the case."

County Chair Carol McCall chose not to comment on this issue.

JJ Melton can be reached at [email protected]

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