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Berger MIA as Commission, School Board talk money

READ MORE: Berger MIA as Commission, School Board talk money
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A meeting between the New Hanover County Commission and School Board this morning was supposed to help get the two groups on the same page. While it may have helped bring them together as they work on funding for schools, it also showed a continuing division among commissioners.

"I'm willing to take the political risk of saying to the people of New Hanover County, 'If you need to blame someone, don't blame the county commissioners. Blame the school system, because we're the ones asking for the money,'" School Board member Ed Higgins said as the two sides talked about money for education. "And if we're asking for the money, we should be prepared to defend it."

Higgings does not apologize for putting the needs of education above all else. He volunteered to be the scapegoat if the commission would raise taxes to fund education, but County Commissioner Ted Davis said absolutely not to the idea of raising taxes again.

Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield said he understands their needs, but the School Board is not the only entity asking the commission for money.

"The reality is you only have a finite supply of resources, finances, coming in, and you've got to best allocate those as you can," Barfield said.

School Board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh said education should not be cut on anymore.

"Children, they are the future," she said. "They are the future of our county. It impacts the economics for this county, not only now but for 10, 20, 30 years in the future."

Besides the tension between commissioners and school board members, another elephant in the room was the absence of Commissioner Brian Berger.

Berger was criticized at Thursday's agenda briefing for always being late. He claims the other commissioners have a gang mentality, but Barfield said Berger is just out there, while the rest of the them get along fine.

"It's important that when you're elected to serve in the role that we're serving in and the level that we're serving in, that you're committed, number one, to your responsibilities, that you show up on time and that you educate yourself on the issues, so that when you speak, you can speak intelligently," Barfield said.

We called Berger and tried to find him at his house, but no one answered.

Back at the meeting, most involved said despite previous problems, they were satisfied.

"I thought the county commissioners listened to the concerns of the school system, and expressed a willingness to go back and look at their budget and to see what they may be able to do to help us," Higgins said.

The meeting ended with appreciation for what the County Commission has done, but School Board members say the children are still in dire need of more funding

As for Berger, his absence comes the morning after he was late to that agenda briefing, where he accused another commissioner of poking him during an argument. It's the latest in a series of squabbles between Berger and his fellow commissioners

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