03/18/12 — District seeking funds for school projects

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District seeking funds for school projects

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 18, 2012 1:50 AM

The Wayne County Board of Education voted Friday to apply for state funds to be used for construction and renovation projects at Spring Creek Elementary, Charles B. Aycock High and schools in the central attendance area.

"We received notice several weeks ago that the state had an additional $12 million available through (Qualified School Construction Bonds Program)," Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for finance, told the board during a special called meeting to consider the action.

She said she had conversations with the school superintendent, county manager and funding officer, and the consensus was to take advantage of the opportunity.

If approved, she explained, the county would again have to sell bonds, just as it did for the $17.7 million projects now under way at Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools. Construction there began in November.

Commissioners in September approved the sale of $15 million in bonds as the primary funding source for those projects and later adopted a capital projects ordinance as well as a budget amendment, authorizing the demolition, construction, repair and renovation of facilities on the two campuses.

Financing for those projects is primarily through the sale of $15 million in federal bonds. Officials said the interest, an estimated $700,000 a year, will be reimbursed to the county by the federal government

The latest group of projects, if funding is approved, would cost an estimated $200,000 a year, Mrs. Barwick said, and would most likely be drawn from lottery funds.

There is expected to be competition for the potential funds, said Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent.

"This $12 million is (between) 115 school districts," he said. "I called DPI (Department of Public Instruction). About six districts had already applied.

"We might not get any of these dollars. We felt like we ought to at least apply."

One obstacle might be the fact that Wayne County Public Schools has already received state funds in the past. Previous recipients are given second-choice status, he explained.

The proposal submitted for their consideration moved down the existing prioritized facilities plan, which contained the top nine projects for the district. The top three items on the list were Mount Olive Middle and Brogden Primary -- which were completed in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- and Norwayne and Eastern Wayne.

The next three items were central attendance schools, Spring Creek Elementary and CBA. Projected costs for central attendance schools was $6.5 million, which would be divided between Carver Heights, School Street and North Drive elementary schools, Dillard Middle, Wayne Academy and Goldsboro High; $3.8 million at Spring Creek; and $6.6 million at CBA.

Board members asked whether it might be beneficial to break down the priority list into smaller pieces.

"We already know we're second in line, second group of priorities (for funding), so the chances of us getting a large chunk of money are probably not real good," said John Grantham, vice chairman. "Wouldn't we be better off asking for small projects? They might go for $500,000 for air conditioning the gym and that might be all we get, versus getting something for a large project."

Board member Thelma Smith said she would particularly favor getting air conditioning in the gyms.

"We talked about, especially in the elementary schools, when it's so hot and they try to have sports, the graduations and it's really hot, that has been at the top of our list for a long, long time," she said. "I'm hoping that's going to be a priority for the central attendance area. We're not looking $20 (million) or $30 million because our buildings are pretty sound, but air conditioning is very, very important."

Mrs. Barwick said no plans had been drawn up for any of the projects, and asked if the board was suggesting she make 10 separate applications for the funding.

Taylor told the board that there was a time constraint, as the deadline for the application was upon them.

"This has to be in today by 5 o'clock," Taylor said.

"We're just fortunate as money becomes available, we have already got plans in place," said board member Rick Pridgen.

The board voted unanimously to proceed with the resolution and application as it was initially presented.