01/15/14 — District seeks funds for new schools

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District seeks funds for new schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 15, 2014 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education voted Monday night to request funding from the county commission in hopes of moving forward on construction projects to build two new middle schools.

A letter, to be sent out Tuesday, was drafted by the school board in an effort to expedite the facilities process. It was addressed to Wayne Aycock, chairman of the commission and acting county manager, and signed by John P. Grantham, BOE chairman.

Grantham explained that despite several meetings held between the two boards over the past year to discuss the facilities plan -- including selecting an architect for the Grantham and Spring Creek projects and an architect for several other renovation projects -- movement had stalled.

"No formal contract can be signed with either firm until the Board of Commissioners approves of our plan of action to move forward," the letter said.

The Board of Education had agreed to complete renovation projects at Charles B. Aycock High, Spring Creek Elementary and in the central attendance area using available funds from the half-cent sales tax and lottery dollars, Grantham said. The revenue streams could also be utilized to fund debt service on one school and partially on a second if the two projects were done simultaneously.

"Keep in mind that this payment is for the building only with other related costs such as furniture, athletic equipment, cafeteria equipment, etc., also being paid from our available revenue streams," the letter said. "Because the proposed schools are solar/energy-type buildings, the increased operational costs of personnel for both schools would be reduced by the energy savings we would have by not having a power bill to be paid."

The letter also referenced a memo sent to the commission dated Dec. 19, indicating the school board would need an estimated $782,000 a year from the county to fully make the payment on the two new proposed schools, based upon the present design.

"Because of some discussion with regard to auditoriums being part of the design, we have calculated the payment without the auditoriums, which would in effect reduce our request for additional assistance from $782,000 to $492,571," the letter said.

Grantham said afterward that the board's feeling is that the auditoriums are warranted in those communities, where meeting space is lacking. If funds could be made available to support that, it would be an ideal addition to the schools, he said.

The letter went on to say that the district is "urgently requesting" an answer as to what funding the commission is willing or able to provide and when it might be available.

"For new schools and additions/renovations to be completed by the start of the school year 2015, the design must be completed and construction contracts awarded this spring/early summer," Grantham read, adding that the school board is willing to provide additional information and be available to meet with the commission as needed in order to move the process along.

The letter also alluded to the board's resistance to a bond referendum to pay for the projects.

"The Board of Education prefers funding the projects with cash in hand and current revenue streams mentioned above instead of a bond issue since there is considerable uncertainty that a bond would pass and would delay the projects even if it did pass," Grantham said.