Johnston County Public Schools faces nearly $9 million shortfall

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — The fastest growing school district in North Carolina could be on the verge of a financial collapse.

Johnston County Public Schools face a deficit of more than $8 million, and could run out of money before the school year is over.

“The situation is the worst in terms of actual dollars that I’ve ever worked with,” said interim superintendent Jim Causby. “We’re about $8.8 million short in the local expense budget, and that’s after making about $10 million in reductions.”

The question many people in Johnston County are asking is how the district ended up in such bad shape financially.

“I call it the perfect storm,” said Causby. “It’s just a matter of circumstances really. The system is growing very rapidly, and that’s added to some of that. Money has had to be used to build buildings, and not as much has gone directly to student programs.”

The district website lists 61 vacant teaching positions, and an additional 121 unfilled classified positions, even after shifting 30 central office employees into local schools to cover the gaps.

“It’s a combination of that, and a combination of long term subs,” said Causby. “It’s not unusual nowadays with teacher shortages to have that kind of situation.”

The school board has already signed off on a plan to ask the Johnston County Board of Commissioners for funding to cover the gap so they won’t run out of money before the end of the school year.

“If we had to go further with cuts we would get into reduction of force where it would actually cut personnel and people would lose jobs,” said Causby. “We’re hopeful that won’t happen.”

The Johnston County Commission is expected to vote on the school bailout package at their December meeting.

Causby tells CBS 17 he expects the package will pass, but isn’t counting on receiving the funding until a vote is finalized.

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