The Sampson County Board of Education has tightened the purse strings of the system when it comes to how much school leaders can spend on contracts without their permission.
During a Tuesday morning work session, board Chairman Dewain Sinclair brought up a policy procedure which deals with the authorization of contracts. According to Policy Code 6420, any contract involving expenditures in excess of $100,000 must be reviewed by the board’s attorney and approved in advance by the board.
Sinclair said he thought that policy should be changed, reducing the expenditure amount. For the size of Sampson County Schools, he proposed to set the limit at $30,000, which was later unanimously approved by the board.
“We might need to bring that down a little bit,” he said to his colleagues in discussing the expenditure amount.
While addressing the board, Sinclair listed spending amounts from nearby districts. According to his figures, Bladen County’s limit is $30,000 and Duplin’s is $50,000. Clinton City School’s is about $25,000.
Sinclair stressed that his recommendation was in no way a reflection on the actions of current Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy or past superintendents. He just simply believes, he said, that the board should have more say on how much is spent, particularly when the expense climbs above $30,000.
“As a board, we need to make sure that we do our job and look at everything twice over and have control over the expenditures up to a point,” Sinclair said.
Before Tuesday, the policy stated that a superintendent or designee is authorized to enter into contracts or approve change orders involving amounts up to $100,000. Board member Glen Tart noted that the policy was written by the state School Boards Association and was set for larger districts such.
“It’s just a number they put in there and it never changed,” Tart said. “It’s not a one size fits all. It’s just a number they put into the policy.”
According to the policy, principals may spend up to $5,000, if certain circumstances are approved by the superintendent. Vice Chairman Sonya Powell questioned if $5,000 was too much for a principal to spend, since the limit for the superintendent is being lowered.
The purpose is to provide more flexibility at the school level. One of the possible circumstances mentioned by Bracy included tutors for students. Funds for such assistance may come from Title 1 Funds, which provides financial assistance for schools who have children from low-income families. By changing the amount, he believed it may create a logjam with certain matters.
“I’m not aware of any issues involving contracts with principals,” Bracy said. “They do a good job of sticking to their budget.”
Prior to the board’s decision, the policy was adopted in 2009 and revised in November 2012.