06/02/06 — Parents are key if school bond is needed

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Parents are key if school bond is needed

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 2, 2006 1:48 PM

If a bond referendum is going to be introduced to pay for school facilities, it will need public support, Board of Education members told a gathering Thursday night.

In a meeting with the Community Advisory Committee, school officials discussed the budgeting process and developing a master plan for facilities in the school system.

The advisory group consists of representatives from each of the public schools. Twenty-one of the 31 county schools were represented.

"You're a vital link between us and the community. You can also be a vital link between the county commissioners," said John P. Grantham, board chairman.

Commissioners are doing a good job looking out for taxpayers, he said. The county is in their hands; education for the county is in the school board's hands, he added.

"You will be instrumental in helping them realize that school is our future - it's money well-spent," Grantham said.

Before reviewing the proposed $90 million, five-year facilities plan recently sent over to commissioners, he encouraged the group to get the word out about the school system's needs.

"We'd really like to get a bond issue going. It may or may not happen," he said.

To sell the idea, "we're going to need support all over the county," said Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent.

Taylor said the school system is awaiting the outcome of commissioners' approval of the 2006-07 budget, as well as its decision on teacher supplements. Legislators also have yet to weigh in on available funding, making planning for another school year tentative.

"We work with imaginary numbers" when the budget process starts in January, said Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance. "The state hasn't passed a budget when we start, the county has not passed a budget, and grant money (is not known)."

It has been years since a local bond referendum was put before the public, board members said. The most recent, for $37.5 million, came from the state in 1996. The last local one was the previous decade, in the amount of $18 million, officials said.

Such a lapse "may be part of the problem, part of the reason the schools are in the shape they are in," board member Lehman Smith said.

"When we go before the county commissioners over the last four years, six years - basically our building in Wayne County stopped. We'd spent all the state had appropriated."