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Mecklenburg County Trustees press supes on next step for facilities

SoVaNow.com / September 25, 2013
The newly formed education committee — a joint panel made up of members of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors and School Board — spent its initial meeting yesterday discussing ways to shore up aging county school buildings.

School trustee Sandra Tanner, who chaired the meeting, said the need to maintain their existing facilities has moved to the forefront, with a recent decision by supervisors not to fund a school facilities consultant. “We need guidance from you,” Tanner said.

Initially, Tanner and trustee Thomas Bullock attempted to revisit the request for monies. Tanner asked supervisors, “When is a good time for us to move forward and how do you need us to bring it to you?” referring to the request for $200,000 to hire an expert in school planning and facilities.

Bullock reminded supervisors of a previous request for the School Board to come forward with a plan. He said, “We need information. We can’t give you a plan without information.”

Both were quickly told by supervisor Glanzy Spain: “Not right now. We have to get beyond the outside noise and cloudy issues” — a veiled reference to recent concerns raised by supervisors Bill Blalock and David Brankley on the handling and disposal of school furniture and equipment.

Based on the facilities funding plan currently in place, County Administrator Wayne Carter, together with trustee Glenn Edwards, calculated the earliest time for supervisors to consider funding a new high school as 5-7 years down the road.

Edwards then asked for guidance from the supervisors as to “how we [the school board] can budget some money for repairs to existing buildings. Do we just need to tighten our own belts?”

None of the supervisors, who included David Brankley, Claudia Lundy and Glanzy Spain, responded — leaving it to Carter to explain that the $2 million in taxes that supervisors have earmarked annually for school facilities can be not just for a new school, but used on any building.

Carter added that supervisors presently hold $2.5 million in a separate roof fund. However, that money can only be used to repair roofs on school buildings.

The fund was created in the 1990s after a harsh winter storm, coupled with years of neglect, caused roofs on school buildings to fail, and forcing supervisors to scramble to find money to do the necessary repairs.

Brankley reminded trustees, who on more than one occasion returned to the topic of a new school building, that “even if funding were there tomorrow for a new consolidated high school, there is still the need to use the existing high schools and elementary schools and keep them in top shape.”

Before SOL testing, the schools had been receiving monies for capital expenses and had been making repairs on the buildings. The advent of SOLs and the need to have computers on which the tests could be taken, forced Mecklenburg and many other school divisions, according to Thornton, to redirect the money toward technology purchases. For that reason school facilities are suffering.

Before the meeting, Thornton prepared a “brainstorming” list of obvious needs for the seven oldest school buildings (South Hill Elementary School being new was not included in the list) in the County. The list covers a multitude of problems from windows to plumbing to lighting.

Carter suggested the school might want to prioritize that list, and find an expert who can tell the schools at what point are they seeing a “payback” for upgrades.

Edwards said he was aware of a company in Richmond who could perform that service, as far as calculating the benefit of installing new windows, but there was no further discussion.

Committee members decided to set their next meeting for Jan. 9 at 4:30 p.m., at which time school trustees are expected to have their list of construction/maintenance needs prioritized, along with project costs.

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Comments

The Board of Supervisors will continue a track record of not building new schools, making promises they do not intend to keep and being reactive rather than proactive. Nothing changes,they all need to go including the county administrator and dinosaurs on the board

Comments

Good Job BOS! keep a tight hold on the purse strings. If enough counties would do this, we could get rid of SOL's an go back to giving kids a real education. I would like to know how much money is wasted on these outside testing companies, advisors etc. Education is hogwash today. The county does not need one school. It needs to keep two high schools. Look at Halifax and what a mess that is with the one HS.


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