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Commissioners Reinstate $50,000 to WCS Initially Cut From Upcoming Budget Because of Camp Conflict

By Jesse Wood

May 21, 2014. On Tuesday evening, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to reinstate $50,000 of funding to the Watauga County Schools system after reaching an agreement regarding a camp on school grounds this summer.

Earlier in the month during a budget retreat, Chair Nathan Miller spearheaded sending a message to the school board and school administration because school officials restricted the timeframe of the “Fun in the Sun” camp, a Department of Social Services-certified summer camp coordinated by Watauga County Parks and Recreation on the campus of Hardin Park.

The camp was initially slated to be eight weeks long but was cut to six weeks because administrators wouldn’t allow the camp to extend into August.

WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said at the time that while the school system supported the camp, faculty and staff need the building empty in order to perform cleaning and maintenance work required to ensure that the school is ready to open in the fall. Instead of ending in the middle of August, the camp concludes Aug. 1. The first day of school is Aug. 19.

This didn’t sit well with Miller and some of the other commissioners.

Miller stressed that the camp is a not-for-profit venture open to everyone and serving mostly underprivileged kids with subsidies available through DSS. Miller mentioned that the county received “curt” responses when contacting school officials about the scheduling conflict.

During the budget retreat with the Watauga County Board of Education, members of the school board said they weren’t aware of the matter, according to meeting minutes, and would address administrators with the school system about the conflict.

The county administration’s proposed budget – yet to be adopted by the commissioners – included funding operating costs of the school system to the tune of $12,062,834 plus funds for the system’s capital improvement plan.

After the vote on Tuesday night to reinstate $50,000 of funding to next year’s WCS budget, Miller said that the agreement entailed holding an additional week of the camp on the grounds of another school aside from Hardin Park.

Before the vote, Vice-Chair Delora Hodges of the school board signed up to speak to the board of commissioners during the budget hearing to appeal the $50,000 funding cut. However, she found out that an arrangement had already been reached before the meeting began between the county and school system.

She thanked the commissioners for being “flexible” and noted the “supportive relationship” between the school board and commissioners.

For more information on this issue and other commissioners’ thoughts on the matter, read a prior article.