A workaround of state law will allow Wayne County to recoup sales tax revenues from the Meadow Lane Elementary School project.
It also will give the county ownership of the new school that in turn will be leased back to the Wayne County Board of Education.
For "whatever reason," under state law boards of education cannot apply for the sales tax refund, County Manager George Wood told commissioners during their Tuesday morning session.
But counties can, he said.
This isn't the first time Wayne County commissioners and the Wayne County Board of Education have used such an arrangement to save money on a school project.
The construction agreement approved Tuesday morning by commissioners is similar to the one they entered into with the school board for the new Spring Creek and Grantham middle schools.
"You would lease the (Meadow Lane) school to them over the 20-year term of the bonds," Wood said. "Once the bonds are paid off, it would go back to the school board. The reason for that is we have to have the school as collateral on the loan."
The county is not charging anything to lease the middle schools to the school board and will not charge anything to lease Meadow Lane back either, Wood said.
The arrangement also will help with interest rates, County Attorney Borden Parker said.
"What you are doing is they are conveying the school to you," Parker said. "You will then be able to get the refund of the sales tax and put the land up to support any debt that you have on building the school.
"You will make them your agents to build the school. They will have the right to make any changes, but you have to agree to any change orders."
The advantage to the arrangement is the county can apply for sales tax refunds, he said.
"I wonder if anybody has ever foreclosed on a school before?" said Commissioner Joe Daughtery, who made the motion to approve the agreement.
"Not in North Carolina," Parker said.
Pinnacle Architecture of Matthews is designing the new $21.8 million Meadow Lane Elementary School.
It will be built on the existing campus and will include a separate wing to house Edgewood Community Developmental School.
The new Meadow Lane is projected to be ready for students by August 2018. The existing school will continue to operate while the new one is being constructed.
The Edgewood addition will be constructed after the old school is demolished.
School officials say they hope students will move in between the Christmas 2018 and New Year's 2019 holidays.
In another school-related vote, commissioners agreed to include a recess in their March 21 session in order to attend a joint meeting with the school board. The meeting will be held in the school system's central offices, 2001 E. Royall Ave.