10/22/13 ABSS details lottery money expenses
ABSS details lottery money expenses
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 10/22/13
Reprinted with permission.
GRAHAM — The Alamance-Burlington School System expects $1.5 million from the N.C. Education Lottery this year.
The state expects $481 million in profits from the lottery this fiscal year, according to the Associated Press.
It’s an amount that begs one particular question.
“People always ask ‘where’s the lottery money going?’” said Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “We get that a lot.”
The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education will vote Monday on a request from the maintenance department to use $1.8 million in lottery money for things ranging from an asbestos project at Williams High School to new carpets at Altamahaw-Ossipee Elementary School.
The school system has received more than $33 million since the lottery started in 2006. There are limits on how ABSS can spend this money. The 2005 lottery law set 50 percent for classrooms and early education, 40 percent for school construction and 10 percent for scholarships, according to the Associated Press.
The Legislature followed it for about three years.
Lottery money has been moved around to cover shortfalls for other education programs, and even for Medicaid, according to the Associated Press.
This summer the Legislature scratched the original formula for splitting up lottery money, but kept it in education.
Tony Rose, chairman of the board of education, asked if some of it could go to helping schools get ready for the online testing the state is pushing.
Julie Masten, ABSS executive director of finance, said the funds are restricted to long-term projects, so ABSS can use it for high-speed Internet cables, but not laptops.
“If you can pick it up and walk it out of the room,” Masten told the board, “you can’t use it.”
To date, the lottery has raised more than $2.9 billion for these programs statewide, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
It sounds like a lot of money because it is. The budget to run the state’s public schools is a lot more.
Even if all the $1.4 billion in revenue from the lottery the state got in 2010-11 had gone directly to education in 2012, Jewell said, it would only cover 19 percent of the 2012 education budget.
“By the time it gets to the counties, it’s not a great deal of money,” Jewell said. “But of course is it better than not having it at all.”
Of course, not all that money goes to schools. After paying out the winners and promoting itself, about 30 percent of lottery revenues go to education, according to the North Carolina Association of Educators.
The state also divides education revenues from the lottery based on a county’s tax base, Jewell said. So no matter how much residents of a poor county spend on lottery tickets, a wealthier county with a higher tax base will get more lottery money.
Lottery money will go this year to three initiatives not identified in the 2005 law. They include student financial aid for University of North Carolina students and digital learning technology for public schools, which Gov. Pat McCrory wanted.
Handing out the cash
Of the $33 million ABSS received from the lottery since 2006: