With the North Carolina General Assembly back together for the short session, the ongoing debate about lottery funds could once again be up for a vote. Let over from last year’s session and examined by legislative study committees, raising the cap on advertising spending by the North Carolina Education Lottery could be up for discussion this session, opening the door on the percent of lottery funds being returned to local districts.
“Lottery funds are important to our district and district’s across the state,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “These funds go toward debt service on school capital projects in Macon County. This allows us to use local funding for other important items and services that benefit the classroom.”
The North Carolina Education Lottery generated $2 billion last year, and of that, after prizes are paid out, retailers for commissions, administrative costs, advertising costs and incentives are paid out, only a little more than 17 percent of the money generated through the lottery is given to public education.
At the Macon County Board of Education meeting Monday night, school board members voted to send the $290.048.50 received from the state to Macon County for the funds to be used to pay down the debt payments for capitol building projects within the school system. Each year, the school system redirects the funds to the county to handle the debt services.
When the lottery law was passed in 2005, it was established to create funding that would be divided between three areas of concern in education. Fifty percent was said to be allocated to reduce class size in the early grades by hiring more teachers and for pre-k programs, 40 percent was to go to school construction and 10 percent was to go 10 scholarships for students in need. Since inception, the school construction portion of the law has been decreasing, with only abound 17 of that 40 percent being given back to counties. In 2013, the law was amended and wording was adjusted to say the money just had to go to education-related needs.
Macon County’s $290,048 allotment for the 2015-16 school year is $21,436 less than the $311,484 the county received in 2014-15. In 2010-11, Macon County received the largest amount since the lottery’s inception at $589,712, but since then, the amount the county has received has decreased.
Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove says the decreasing in funding is a trend that local districts want to see end and something that a lot of school systems can’t continue to sustain.
Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale has been an advocate for the lottery funds being fully reinstated, and as a member of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, serving as Past President, Beale, along with the entire association has made it a priority to advocate for the full 40 percent.
NCACC Board President Glen Webb noted that the funding the lottery provides school districts is crucial to the success of public education in North Carolina. “The reinstatement of the 40 percent language in the lottery statute is very important to counties,” said Webb. “As county budgets continue to struggle, funds for school capital needs remain scarce. Counties have asked for a reinstatement of the language willing to compromise and have an incremental increase with the understanding that our partners in the legislature face tough budget constraints as well. Currently, the appreciated 100 million dollar disbursement to counties makes up only about 12 percent of the proceeds. Just in my county that leaves our disbursement approximately 2 million dollars short annually. The bedrock of growth for our state is a robust public education system and counties are the tip of the spear in making that happen. I look forward to cooperating with our legislators to track this in the right direction with the recognition that this will be a marathon, not a sprint.”