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Roanoke Rapids moves closer to sharing funds with Halifax schools

— Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Board of Trustees voted for a solo revenue-sharing agreement with Halifax County Public Schools — The vote was unanimous — The agreement could be a boon to Halifax County Public Schools, which have a large number of students who qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch

The Roanoke Rapids Graded School District (RRGSD) is moving forward with its plans for a solo revenue-sharing agreement with Halifax County Public Schools.

Originally, the three Halifax school districts — Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, Weldon City Schools and Halifax County Public Schools — were discussing an agreement to share local sales and use taxes evenly among the three districts.

That was the end result of a push to get the Halifax Board of Commissioners to change the tax distribution method in Halifax County from ad valorem to per capita. Basically, ad valorem distributes sales tax revenue based on property while per capita distributes the revenue based on population. The Halifax County School District would have received more county money under the per capita distribution method.

The method of tax revenue distribution was also part of the lawsuit brought against the Halifax Commissioners by the Coalition for Education and Economic Security (CEES), the Halifax County branch of the NAACP, and three parents and guardians of children in Halifax County Public Schools. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, though the groups appealed the dismissal.

To stave off a potential move by the Halifax County Board of Commissioners to change the tax distribution method to one that emphasized population over property, the three districts entered into negotiations on the revenue-sharing agreement. But those negotiations fell apart in June.

“While we could not reach an agreement with Weldon City Schools, the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District does NOT want to be the reason the commissioners vote to default to the Per Capita method of distribution which we believe would be a loss for everyone involved including Our Community Hospital, the Town of Weldon, and local volunteer fire departments,” said Jay Carlisle, RRGSD Board Chair, in a June press release.

On July 12, the RRGSD Board of Trustees unanimously approved an agreement that would have it split local sales and use taxes with Halifax County Public Schools, excluding Weldon City Schools and its share of the sales tax distribution.

Some further steps are required before the revenue-sharing agreement becomes a done deal, but if and when it goes into effect, the deal will work like this.

The RRGSD will split 50 percent of the sales tax revenue equally with Halifax County Public Schools, and it will split the other half in proportion to the Average Daily Membership of students contained in the two school districts.

The revenue-sharing agreement is important because the Halifax County School District is a historically poor district with one of the worst track records when it comes to student achievement. A large number of students in Halifax County Public Schools qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch programs, and until relatively recently, Halifax County Public Schools were dead last in the state for student achievement. Last year, the district moved up to 113 from 115. The hope is that increased revenue will help the district further.

2014-15 free-and-reduced-price lunch applications for the Halifax County School District (Information courtesy of the state Department of Public Instruction)
2014-15 free-and-reduced-price lunch applications for the Halifax County School District (Information courtesy of the state Department of Public Instruction)

This document explains the position of the RRGSD on sales tax distribution. At the bottom is an explanation of the model the Board of Trustees adopted earlier this month.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.