05/01/06 — Still no sign of consultant's report

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Still no sign of consultant's report

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 1, 2006 1:51 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education are still waiting for a school facility report that is a month overdue.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said Evergreen Solutions representatives told him last week the report was near completion, but the consultant needs information from the school board to finish it.

"I believe it has something to do with facilities. That's the only holdup," Smith said Thursday.

Wayne County Schools public information officer Ken Derksen, said he, the staff and the school board are unaware of any information that was not provided to Evergreen Solutions.

"Wayne County Public Schools, as far as we know, provided all of the information that has been requested," Derksen said.

Evergreen Solutions representatives working on the report could not be reached for comment.

The commissioners hired the Florida company to analyze the county's school facilities needs. Once the report is complete and presented to county and school officials, the boards plan to hold joint meetings to discuss the results and decide the school board's budget.

By state law, the school board can't present its budget to the commissioners until May 15. By law, the commissioners are required to have a county budget, including a school spending plan, in place by July 1.

Last year, the two sides nearly wound up in court after disagreeing over the amount of money the commissioners allocated for public education. A last-minute settlement avoided a lawsuit.

Both sides have said they want to resolve this issue. Smith said the best way to reach a resolution is for both boards to work together as soon as the report is handed over, possibly by next week.

"Once the information gets back, we can get a joint meeting with the boards. Then, the two boards can develop a process based on Evergreen's recommendations," he said.

The school board expressed interest this week in having a joint meeting with the commissioners as soon as possible to help finalize its budget.

Wayne County Commissioner John Bell said he believed the commissioners would not be willing to do that.

"We all agreed on getting the Evergreen report back first. We don't know what to budget without the report. It's almost like putting the cart before the horse. We could be having discussions about one thing and the report says something else," Bell said.

Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best said he would be willing to have a meeting soon, as long as all of the people involved are willing to sit down and discuss the issues.

"I think if the majority of the people involved want a meeting, we should do it. If they want to meet, I'm ready to meet with them. This isn't going to be figured out in one meeting. The more we can have to solve this, the better," Best said.