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News Education Lottery funds help out cash-starved school systems

Jennifer Graves at the Hot Spot sells lottery tickets all day, but says she doesn't buy them herself. Photo by Christopher CarpenterEvery time a lottery jackpot rings, North Carolina schools receive more funding. But how much money are schools in Western North Carolina receiving, and how are they using the funds?

Last Thursday, the North Carolina Education Lottery made its final transfer of lottery revenues to the state for the 2011 fiscal year. All in all, the Lottery has given more than $2 billion in total contributions to educational systems throughout the state since it was established in March of 2006.

Transfers for the 2011 fiscal year totaled $446.9 million, $5 million more than projected when the NCEL approved its original budget in June 2010.

These figures may seem miniscule when compared to the recent massive budget cuts implemented in Raleigh earlier this year, but educators in WNC are grateful for the cash, especially after K-12 education sustained a 5.8 percent reduction in funds. Much of the reduced spending was in the form of massive reversions that will leave the burden of cutting jobs and programs to the local school systems.

Millions in WNC

Lottery funds have made a positive impact to the local education system, particularly during tight economic times, according the newly appointed Jackson County Schools Superintendent Mike Murray.

“Anytime funds are given to a public school system it’s a major asset,” said Murray, who recently transferred to Jackson from his post in McDowell County as an Associate Superintendent of Operations. “We need all the help we can get … Every county seems to uses their funds differently according to need.”








Murray explained that the leadership in Jackson County decided to use its share of lottery money to fund a $3 million kindergarten facility construction project at Fairview Elementary.

Macon County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman echoed Murray’s statement about the funds, but stressed that local dollars spent on the lottery seemingly outweigh the benefits the lottery promises.

“Every nickel counts. This is another resource that public schools need and we are thankful,” said Brigman said. “But the amount is minimal to the need. Our contributions far exceed our return.”

Since 2009, Macon County has used approximately $1.7 million of lottery funds to pay off school debt services. According to NCEL officials, Macon County has collected approximately $1.4 million since 2010, and $4.6 million since the state-ran lottery began in March of 2006.

“There’s been lots of news about reductions in state spending for education, but citizens of North Carolina should know that the lottery’s contribution to education and the state has grown every year,” said Alice Garland, executive director of the NCEL. “Without the lottery, those reductions would have been much worse. Lottery dollars go a long way in helping build and repair schools, support teacher salaries in grades K-3, provide spots for kids to attend prekindergarten programs and fund college scholarships.”

According to the NCEL, most of the money this quarter, $101.3 million, was transferred to the State Education Lottery Fund to support those education initiatives. Those allotments include teacher salaries for grades K-3, school construction projects, the More at Four preschool program for at-risk four-year-olds and college scholarships based on financial need. In all, transfers to the State Education Lottery Fund totaled $419.5 million this year.

The remaining portion of the final transfer, $2.7 million, goes as directed by the N.C. General Assembly to cover a shortfall in federal Medicaid monies, which provide health insurance for the poor. The fiscal year 2011 budget required that any excess revenues from the previous year and half of any unclaimed prize money help cover that shortfall. Those transfers totaled $27.4 million.

With the transfer, the Education Lottery has raised $446.9 million for education and the state in fiscal year 2011 and achieved $6.36 billion in total sales, as of June 27.

As of now, the lottery will not be introducing any new games, but changing current games to increase the odds of winning, according to Garland. “We’re hoping it will have a nice impact on sales,” she said, explaining that the Powerball game, for instance, will go from a $1 game to a $2 game in the beginning of next year. The amount of numbers playable will also decrease from 39 to 35 on the powerball.

Cherokee County
— $163,805 was used for design of a classroom addition at Ranger Elementary in (2008)
— $94,489, $185,712 and $181,101 were used to pay debt service on the addition (2009-10)
— $25,326 was used to replace a boiler at Andrews Elementary (2009)
— $133,900 was used for design and other services at Andrews High (2010)

Clay County
— $80,000 was used for purchase of adjoining land for future expansion at Hayesville High (2009)

Graham County
— $298,000 was used for roof replacements at Robbinsville Middle and High Schools (2009)

Haywood County
— $29,850 to repair and resurface track and $31,120 for gym window replacement at Waynesville Middle (2008)
— $329,362 bleacher replacement; $43,500 gym lighting; $20,800 paint gym ceilings at Tuscola and Pisgah High (2008)
— $321,057; $309,155; and $303,240 for debt service on synthetic turf project for Pisgah and Tuscola High (2008-10)
— $9,000 for design of ADA-compliant ramp at Pisgah High (2011)
— $175,724 for bleacher replacement at Bethel, Waynesville and

Canton Middle Schools (2011)
— $134,859 for bleacher repair at Pisgah, Tuscola and Central High Schools, and at Bethel Middle (2011)
— $121,000 for accessible ramps at Pisgah High (2011)
— $9,400 for front entrance redesign at Canton middle (2011)

Jackson County
— $441,286; $265,184; and $685,008 for debt service on Fairview Elementary Kindergarten building (2008-10)

Macon County
— $680,000; $586,817; and $457,640 in debt service payments (2009-11)

Swain County
— Debt Service payments of $60,066; $109,190; $112,828; $249,759; and $237,560 (2007-11)

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