The Transylvania Times -

School Board Votes To Put Bond On 2018 Ballot

 

August 10, 2017



The Transylvania County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday evening to request a general obligation bond be placed on the general election ballot in November 2018.

The board, however, did not determine how much money for capital needs it would seek with the bond. That decision will be made at a later date.

“We’ve identified $93 million worth of (capital) needs in the school system that are legitimate needs,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris. “I don’t think anybody is disputing that.”

Board members said that by having the bond referendum during the general election it would allow them more time to communicate the school system’s capital needs to local citizens.

“I think we may the need time,” said board member Alice Wellborn on having the referendum in November 2018. “We have to do as thorough a job as we can do of going all over this county.”

She noted there is no partial victory with the bond.

“It’s up or it’s down,” she said.

Board member Betty Scruggs McGaha asked if having the referendum in November of next year instead of during a primary next spring would increase the price of school construction.

Norris Barger, director of business services and plant operations, said all estimates were based on the referendum being held in November of 2018.

McGaha then asked that if the board did not seek $93 million, how those unmet projects would affect capital expenditures in the future.

Barger said that with a 12 percent annual increase in construction costs, the costs would double every eight years.

Jeremy Gibbs, chief academic officer, reminded the school board that one of the reasons the costs were reduced from $118 million to $93 million is that they compressed the time frame in which the capital projects would be done.

Vice Chairman Ron Kiviniemi said the board needs to base its request on what the students need.

“I think we really need to think as a community – What is it we want for our children?” asked Kiviniemi. “Do we want them to have the safest, most environmentally healthy, 21st century technology, access to the best learning methods possible? And hopefully that is our goal as a community.

“Then my feeling has always been we need to request through a combination of limited obligation bonds, other funding, general obligation bonds what our needs are.”

McGaha said the school system is looking to make basic improvements, such as roofing, heating, plumbing and air conditioning.

“None of the needs identified for improvements are anything over the top,” said McGaha. “They’re just basic improvements and needs.”

“We’re not asking for the Taj Mahal,” agreed Kiviniemi.

Board member Marty Griffin asked if there has been any indication if the state would seek a bond referendum in November of 2018. He expressed concern that if the state held at bond referendum at the same time, it could have a negative impact on the local referendum.

“That bothers me if both of them (referendums) are sitting on the same ballot,” said Griffin.

McDaris said he has received no indication at this point that a statewide referendum is being planned for next fall.

In regards to holding a bond referendum during the spring primary, Board Chairwoman Tawny McCoy said there might be uncontested primaries so only a few people would show up to vote and there might be contested primaries that draw more voters to the polls.

McDaris said there has been “indecision” at the state level as to whether the primary would be held in May or March, or that would affect how much time the school system has to meet all the bond referendum requirements.

Board members decided they needed to set a bond referendum date in order to begin all of the other processes required to get a bond referendum on the ballot.

“We need to start making some definitive decisions to get this issue rolling,” Kiviniemi said.

The board then voted unanimously to seek a general obligation bond in the November 2018 general election.

McCoy then broached asking the commissioners for money to prepare architectural drawings and models.

Kiviniemi said the board needs those drawings in order to educate the community and civic groups about the capital needs.

Kiviniemi said that in one-on-one and two-on-two meetings between school board members and commissioners, school board members had stated that they would need help to fund the architectural drawings and models.

Board members then discussed whether they should ask to have drawings for all of the school projects or just the two major projects: Brevard and Rosman high schools.

The school system has estimated it would cost about $744,000 for drawings for all schools and roughly $500,000 for just the two high schools.

Griffin said he is concerned that too much focus is being placed on the two high schools while there are needs at all nine facilities.

“The needs are system-wide in all buildings,” agreed Kiviniemi.

Wellborn said the board should work backward from the bond referendum date so that it knows how long it has to finish each procedure, such as receiving architectural drawings, submitting information to the Local Government Commission and disseminating information to community and civic groups.

“We need to know those dates,” said Wellborn. “I’d like to have a whole plan.”

McGaha asked how long it would take for an architectural firm to do the drawings.

Once a proposal is accepted, Barger said it could take about six months to get the drawings.

“I would get started right away,” said school board attorney Chad Donnahoo.

Barger said he could get the estimates verified by the next meeting so that the school board could request a specific amount from the county commissioners.

Board members then agreed that at their Aug. 21 meeting they would decide on how much money to request and send that request, in the form of a resolution, to the commissioners.

Kiviniemi asked that in continuing conversations with the county manager that the school board receive the following information for the last several years: The total budgets for the county and school system; how much the county fund balance has increased each year; how much the county has spent on its own capital projects and how much of those expenditures were paid through general obligation bonds; how much the school system requested for capital needs from the county and how much the school system actually received.

“I’d like to see those figures to give us a basis for intelligent decision making,” said Kiviniemi.

Griffin said he would like for the board to determine the bond amount at the board’s September meeting, but McCoy said the board needs to wait until it receives information about the architectural drawings.

Griffin said his concern is that if the architectural drawings take longer than expected, it could cause them not to fulfill all of the other procedures needed to have the bond referendum next fall.

“What if it (the drawings) go from 6 to 9 months?” asked Griffin. “We’re busted then.”

Wellborn said she does not need a “super-detailed” description of what the buildings would look like, but an accurate understanding of what will be done.

McCoy asked if there is a “happy medium” between the general information the board now has and what $750,000 of drawings would present?

“There’s a medium in there,” said Barger, adding that there could be drawings showing a front façade or an aerial view showing where the new buildings and additions would be located.

“I think we need the visuals,” said Kiviniemi.

“I would say that you are absolutely right, but the other aspect that you don’t want to forget is that no one is going to vote for those drawings,” Kevin Smith, coordinator of schools-community relations, said. “They actually need to be told a story through pictures of how this is going to change the day-to-day operation of the school.”

“That’s more of a narrative,” agreed Wellborn. “We have to have a narrative.”

Gibbs, who serves as a trustee for Blue Ridge Community College, said there needs to be something tangible for the voter.

“The new high school facilities that you are going to design are going to look drastically different than the boxes of classrooms that you have now,” said Gibbs

Barger said they might have site plans showing where the new buildings would be located and some concept drawings of the interior.

“The inside has to be dramatically different,” said McDaris.

He said the drawings have to show that there will be more collaborative space in which the whole child is developed through relations and a learning atmosphere.

“It is a place that people want to be,” said McDaris.

McDaris said the new Hunt Library on the Centennial Campus of N.C. State is an example of the type of interior they should have.

“That’s what I am talking about,” said McDaris. “That is fantastic.”

McGaha agreed for a need for a concept drawing so that people will not get “hung up” on how a building looks but would focus on the changes that would improve learning and delivery of services.

“That’s what I would like to see,” said McGaha.

Consolidation

McCoy said it is also important to educate the public that the school board supports all nine schools.

“It is our intent to be supportive in all nine schools,” said McCoy.

McCoy said the public needs to know that the school board has researched consolidation of schools, what the school board has learned and why the school board reached a decision to continue operating all nine schools.

McCoy said the commissioners have requested a presentation as to why the school board was not consolidating the two high schools and on what research that decision was based.

McDaris said an extremely small number of people have claimed that the school board has not looked at all of the options.

“That is absolutely false. We look at all sorts of things,” said McDaris. “We’ve done that research. Because of that research, we have determined that nine schools is in the best interest of Transylvania County and our children.”

McDaris said he would be glad to present the research and board’s conclusion, adding that the school board is the body with the authority to determine how many schools are needed.

“I’ve been to three meetings where Dr. McDaris has already explained this three different times,” said Griffin. “At our last joint meeting (with the county commissioners) the question was asked and it was explained again. How many times do we need to explain this, I don’t know. But to say that we’ve not explained this and every time we’ve had a community meeting – we’ve had two – we’ve explained this.”

Kiviniemi said the school board also has made very clear that the decision not to consolidate is a “school board decision.”

“And it’s been a unanimous decision,” said Griffin.

McDaris said the schools have a lower enrollment, but that is due to there being fewer families with children living in the county, and the lower number of families with children is due to the lower number of jobs.

“The lower number of young families is related to jobs,” said McDaris. “Therefore, the lower number of children is related to jobs.”

“What problem are we trying to solve because we need to make sure we have them in the proper order,” said McDaris. “Lower enrollment did not cause a poor economy in Transylvania County. A poor economy in Transylvania County caused lower enrollment… Economic development picks up, I’ll fill the schools.”

McCoy said the school board is working very hard to provide the safest, most up-to-date facilities for students.

Sinkhole

McDaris said there is sinkhole at the 5-yard line on one end of the Rosman High School football field.

“It’s about 5 foot deep,” said McDaris.

McDaris said staff is cutting the turf around the sinkhole to determine its dimensions. It will then be filled with gravel and topped with soil before the turf is placed back over it.

Griffin, who used to coach football at Rosman High, said there is water that runs underneath the field and sinkholes have been an intermittent problem.

The problem should be fixed before the Tigers first home game, which is against East Henderson on Friday, Aug. 18.

 
 

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