06/09/13 — Bell rejects Daughtery comment on board's handling of schools

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Bell rejects Daughtery comment on board's handling of schools

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 9, 2013 1:50 AM

Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery Tuesday praised the Board of Education for what he called its "bold decision" to ask commissioners to share the cost of several school projects.

Daughtery said he had been in the county for "many, many years" and that it was rare to have the opportunity to come together and to get something done.

"I am hoping this board will step forward and do that," he said.

However, his comments hinting that commissioners had not supported the schools in past years drew a rebuke from Commissioner John Bell.

"I keep hearing some of the new commissioners make comments as though the previous board didn't do anything," Bell said. "I would suggest that you get with Mr. (County Manager Lee) Smith, get a record of the things that we did for the schools for the past 10 years before you make comments that this is all new -- that we are just beginning to work with the schools.

"We have two brand new schools just being completed right now that we just funded. We built gyms. We put in air conditioners. We put on roofs. We give teachers money to buy materials. So I think it is unfair for any commissioner to sit here and act like this is just the beginning. I don't like that. I have been here for 12, 13 years and we have worked hard with the school board and the school system. It just didn't start since December, OK?"

Daughtery was making reference to a recent decision by the Wayne County Board of Education to ask county commissioners to share payment for several facilities projects and to pursue a loan to build a new school in Grantham.

The next projects on the school board's priority list are $1.9 million for air conditioning gyms at Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle schools and creating a student commons area at Goldsboro High School; $3.8 million to construct 12 classrooms at Spring Creek Elementary; and $6.6 million at Charles B. Aycock High to renovate the cafeteria and to construct 20 classrooms.

"I am excited to see the school board make a bold decision to present to us a recommendation on a short list of obtainable goals dealing with our schools," Daughtery said. "I just wanted to say that I realize it was a long time coming, but it has arrived. I am hoping that we will use our best efforts to set aside any personal feelings and do whatever needs to be done to improve our children's education here in Wayne County.

"I realize we all have our districts. We all have our needs and our preconceived notions. But folks, it is time for us to step up to the plate. I just want to say before we begin our budget discussions that I hope we will take this rare opportunity where the school board has reached out and said, 'Meet us halfway.' I am hoping this board will find a way to make this program happen."

The devil is in the details, he said.

"I recognize that there is a lot that we are going to have to accomplish in a short period of time, but it is a unique opportunity," he said.

The county's 2013-14 budget proposal retains the current level of current expense funding for the schools at $18.9 million.

Wayne County Public Schools had requested $6.43 million from its sales tax revenue fund for capital outlay maintenance in the budget proposal. But the budget proposal released Friday includes only $2 million for small works projects.

The schools receive 30 percent of the county's revenues from Article 40 and 60 percent from the county's Article 42 sales tax revenues.

Sales tax revenues are placed in a restricted fund and are based on the amount of tax receipts collected. The fund is currently at $9.5 million and is expected to grow to $10.1 million by June 30.

The fund covers maintenance capital outlay, which the schools ask for every year.

The school system can also commit the funds to retire a debt finance by sales tax revenues. The money is borrowed under the county's name and is on the county's books and any debt payments tied to sales tax revenues have to be paid before the money can be used for capital outlay maintenance.

The school system currently does not have any debt that is being paid out of that fund, one of the reasons that it is growing.