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CFCC President Jim Morton receives a 10% raise, meeting omits year-end financial review

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Megan McDeavitt
/
WHQR
From left to right - Wilson, Funderburk, and Moskowitz being sworn in by Michelle Lee.

On Thursday, the Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees approved a 10% raise for President Jim Morton. The newest trustee, New Hanover County School Board appointee Ray Funderburk III was the lone dissenting vote. Trustees Bill Rivenbark, Deloris Rhodes, Deborah Dicks Maxwell, and Jimmy Hopkins were all absent from the vote.

The announcement came after the board broke for a closed session to discuss personnel matters.

Morton’s raise now puts him at about $314,600 — he also received a 10% raise back in January 2021. Moreover, the trustees extended his contract until 2027 at the May trustee meeting. WHQR asked the college to confirm the president’s new salary but has yet to hear back.

Editor's note: As of Monday evening, CFCC has not responded to questions. However, WECT shared a response they received from the college on Monday, indicating Morton's new salary is roughly $322,000.

According to the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), the state pays $165,939 of Morton’s salary, the state also pays for the benefits for this portion of his salary. That means the county is responsible for the remainder — essentially paying 47% of Morton’s salary and benefits. These benefits include health insurance, retirement at 24.10%, and longevity pay after 10 years.

Earlier in the evening’s meeting, Ray Funderburk III, Lanny Wilson, and Bruce Moskowitz were sworn in as the newest trustees — their terms end in 2026.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners appointed Wilson and Governor Roy Cooper reappointed Moskowitz. The New Hanover County school board unanimously appointed Funderburk.

Trustees Deloris Rhodes and Jonathan Barfield spoke highly of Funderburk. Barfield said he was taught by Funderburk’s father — and Rhodes said she had hired him to work for Pender County Schools. These comments came after the college and Trustee Bill Rivenbark advocated for former trustee Robby Collins to remain on the board instead of Funderburk.

The trustees, upon the recommendation of the Nominating Committee, also unanimously approved Bill Cherry to remain as Chair and Jason McLeod as the newest Vice-Chair, replacing Bruce Shell, who still sits on the board. The Secretary of the board is President Jim Morton — and the recording secretary is Michelle Lee, executive director of the President’s Office.

Financial oversight

Trustees heard the president’s report — but missing from that report was the state’s operating budget summary. The summary traditionally presents an overview of the college’s funds and expenditures. It also shows total dollars and percentages spent for current operating expenses and capital costs. State funds make up about half of the college’s budget.

This report shows the trustees how — and to what extent — the funds have been spent by the college. At the May meeting, a summary showed that about 79% of the budget had been spent as of April 30.

Morton said he couldn’t present this year-end fiscal report because he and his staff were still posting adjusting entries.

“We’re doing our year-end adjustments, and if you would see the financials, they look wacky because of the accruals we’re doing in those reports,” said Morton.

But what Morton is referring to are financial statements that include things like statements of net position, cash flows, and financial position — accruals are not reflected in cash-based reports, i.e. the actual state expenditures through June 30, which were already available. In fact, the June budget summary report was due to the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) on July 6 — and state records indicate CFCC has already submitted it.

Prior to the July meeting, the college’s Finance Committee typically presented this state budget summary. This gives trustees a bi-monthly report of exactly how much of the $60.4 million state budget has been spent.

WHQR reached out to Board Members Deborah Dicks Maxwell and Deloris Rhodes about the missing state report, but Rhodes did not comment (Dicks wasn’t at the meeting) on its absence nor did any of the other trustees. WHQR also reached out to Rhodes and Dicks Maxwell about the resignation of former Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jason Chaffin being left out of the college’s personnel report.

For the trustees to fulfill their duties listed in the state board code of sound fiscal and management practices, they would have needed to see this state operating budget. Because they need to “demonstrate stewardship of the institution’s State financial resources by effectively executing the institution’s budget to ensure that the percentage of state current operating funds remaining unexpended does not exceed five percent or five times the systemwide percentage, whichever is higher.”

The state code dictates that the trustees also expend funds “prudently and consistently with the approved budget.” The last time the trustees approved and viewed a budget was at their May meeting – and this July meeting marked the close of the college’s fiscal year.

In order to execute this function listed in the state code, they would have needed to view this summary report as of June 30th.

Following HQR’s reporting that some CFCC employees were eliminated — and some others got significant raises, the trustees raised no questions about Morton’s decisions. Moreover, both the college and the trustees have not released the reason for the dissolution of the FTE (full-time equivalence) department — and why their jobs were moved into the records specialist position under the umbrella of student services and the registrar’s office.

Morton did say that Cape Fear’s FTE “was exceptional” in comparison to other larger community colleges — it went up 4.4% compared to last year. The college counts FTE in order to receive a considerable amount of state funds.

“That’s all thanks to the folks sitting over here on the sides working hard with all the obstacles we had dealing with Covid,” said Morton.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR