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Last week it seemed an agreement was nearly at hand to prevent the dissolution of the public school merger between Nash County and the city of Rocky Mount. But the plan collapsed Tuesday when the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners rejected a negotiated agreement on terms to keep the merger in place.

“We treat their vote yesterday as a rejection of our compromise and therefore our attempt to settle it was unsuccessful,” said Nash County Manager Zee Lamb Wednesday.

Last week, we covered a joint meeting where the two Boards tried to hash out an agreement. Talks continued later in the week, with the two seeming to come to an understanding.

The agreement that was on the table Tuesday would have Edgecombe County taking over the gap funding from the City of Rocky Mount in 2020-21 for Edgecombe students attending Nash-Rocky Mount schools.

Here’s an explanation of gap funding.

Edgecombe County pays per-pupil funding for Edgecombe students attending Nash-Rocky Mount schools in the city of Rocky Mount. However, Nash County’s per-pupil allotment is higher, so the “gap” funding is the amount of money it takes to raise the Edgecombe student’s per-pupil allotment to the level of Nash County students. Currently, Rocky Mount pays the gap.

Gap funding was not the problem, however. The sticking point were two other provisions that the Nash Commissioners insisted must be part of the agreement. One would have prevented Nash-Rocky Mount Schools from filing legal action “challenging the sufficiency of funds” appropriated by the Nash Board of Commissioners for the schools. The other would change the name of the school system to Nash County Schools after Edgecombe takes over the gap funding.

On the issue of the lawsuit, Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans said that if Nash County wants that provision, the Commissioners should pursue independent legislation.

“Primarily, even though it does not affect us, it isn’t something our Commissioners are asking for,” he said.

Lamb, however, said that the provision is necessary because the merger puts Nash County in a uniquely precarious position.

“We’ve got this coalition of our school board joining forces with another county and the city of Rocky Mount against us that no other county has,” he said.

Basically, he says that Edgecombe can join forces with both the city and Nash County Schools to oppose the Nash County Commissioners on funding, and the county needs protection as a result.

On the issue of the school name change, Lamb said that the commissioners feel that since Rocky Mount will no longer be contributing money after Edgecombe takes over gap funding, the school system should be named for Nash County alone.

The Nash Board of Commissioners met last night and decided not to accept Edgecombe’s offer nor offer a counter-proposal. Instead they are pursuing the original plan of having Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, put forth legislation in the General Assembly that will split Nash-Rocky Mount schools along county lines.

For the background on this story, see our previous article here.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.