First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Robeson County has received $2.1 million from the North Carolina Education Lottery. Three more payments are expected before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The state lottery transferred $95 million into the Education Lottery Fund on Thursday. Thirty-five percent of the sales must go to education.
Erica Setzer, assistant finance officer for the public schools, said the system must submit a plan on how it plans to spend the money. The school board is expected to discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday.
As it stands, more than $1.2 million is expected to go to the county's More At Four preschool program. Robeson officials are expected to set aside another $822,657 for school construction.
“I think it is wonderful to finally see the proceeds come back to the school system and do what it was intended to do,” said board member Tony Jenkins, who is the Finance Committee chairman.
Mary Schultz, director the Early Years program, oversees the More at Four program, a joint venture between the schools and Robeson County Partnership for Children.
“These children need a preschool experience,” Schultz said.
The More at Four program serves 481 children in the county at several private and public sites. The program is for at-risk 4-year-olds whose families meet income criteria.
“I've haven't received any official word, but we will follow the state guidelines as to how the money can be spent,” Schultz said.
The board has talked about installing air conditioning units in gymnasiums with the money. Other targeted needs include parking lot paving, installing lights at the county's high school softball fields and lighting and resurfacing several tennis courts.
The Public Schools of Robeson County is the ninth largest recipient of money, according to the state Association of County Commissioners. How much individual school systems receive depends on a system’s population and a county’s tax rate. The county is expected to receive almost $3.7 million during the current fiscal year, with additional payments in January, April and June. That figure is expected to swell to as much as $4.4 million by 2010.
Board Chairman John Campbell is a Baptist preacher who is opposed to the lottery.
“Morally, I did not support gambling but when you got lemons, you make lemonade,” he said. “There will be a lemon effect … those families who will be negatively impacted by this through addiction. We haven't seen the total impact, but we will celebrate the positive impact while we can.”
Campbell said he would like to see more of the money funneled into the classrooms.
According to the state lottery commission, North Carolina's lottery dedicates a higher percentage of proceeds toward education than most other states in the nation. State law requires that at least 50 percent of the total proceeds be paid out in prizes - no more than 8 percent for administrative costs, 7 percent to retailers and the remaining 35 percent to education.
“We are grateful for any assistance we can get because we are in a low tax base county,” Campbell said. “We appreciate it and we'll make good of any we receive.”
The state Department of Public Instruction manages the distribution of the funds except what is designated for college scholarships, which is handled by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.
“The transfer of much-needed education funding for our students and their schools will be a tremendous help as we continue our efforts to build new schools, hire new teachers and educate our kids,” said state Rep. Garland Pierce. “Whether you support the lottery or not, the real winners from North Carolina’s lottery are our students and their schools.”
Since the lottery started on March 30, a total of $145 million has been raised statewide for education. The first installment is from lottery sales from July to September.