The Transylvania Times -

Bond Timeline, Consolidation Frustration Voiced

 

August 28, 2017



At its Aug. 21 meeting, the Transylvania County Board of Education discussed a timeline of required steps for a bond referendum to be on the November 2018 ballot, as well as some frustration about repeated questions regarding consolidation of the two high schools.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris said the Local Government Commission recommends a 120-day process for approval of a bond referendum.

The following steps are required: 1)The Board of Education passes a resolution and makes a written request to the county commissioners.

2)Basics of what the bond will cover are clarified.

3)The county hires a bond attorney.

4)The county applies to the Local Government Commission with the costs of the bond.

5)The Local Government Commission approves having a bond referendum.

6)The measure is placed on the ballot for November 2018.

7)Public hearings and meetings are held to promote the bond.

8)The public votes on the bond referendum.

McDaris said community meetings to garner support for the bond are already occurring and would be ongoing throughout the entire process.

Board member Alice Wellborn said the board needs to have target dates for each of the steps.

Kevin Smith, coordinator of schools-community relations, said the “public side” of a bond campaign should take about three months.

Smith said there are things that could be done now, such as providing board members information so that whenever they meet with people or focus groups all board members are delivering the same message.

Wellborn said the next step for the school board is to determine how much to request in the bond and pass a resolution on the bond amount that would then go to the county commissioners.

“I personally don’t think we’re quite at that stage,” said Board Chairwoman Tawny McCoy.

McCoy said that while they have decided to pursue a general obligation bond for November 2018, there are other avenues of revenue that could be utilized.

Vice Chairman Ron Kiviniemi said he plans on bringing a motion to the next school board meeting that would request the commissioners provide funding for deferred maintenance issues and lack of fully funding capital outlay requests over the past 10 to 12 years. He said that money could come from the county’s undesignated fund balances, loans or limited obligation bonds.

He added that money could be used to get the school system started on making larger scale capital improvements, as well as decreasing the amount that would be requested for a general obligation bond.

“I will have that motion at our next meeting,” said Kiviniemi.

Board member Marty Griffin said members of the public have asked him how much their taxes will increase if the bond is passed.

Griffin asked who is responsible to come up with the calculations to determine what the tax increase would be.

“The public is going to want to know,” said Griffin.

McCoy said the commissioners have the software and consultants available to them to make those calculations.

Griffin also said that he hears questions as to why the school board does not change its mind about consolidating schools, particularly the high schools.

He said the high schools are the community and they bring economic value to the communities.

“I don't know why that keeps getting hammered at us,” said Griffin. “We are an elected body. We have made a decision. Repeatedly we have explained why and we’re still being questioned. I really have a hard time with that without somebody turning around and supporting our decision.”

McDaris said the question about consolidation “seems to be coming from the same small group of people” who claim the board has not even considered consolidation.

“The board has considered all options,” said McDaris. “The board has researched the matter. They’ve looked at all the variables and the board has come up with a decision that it is in the best interest of the communities and students.”

McDaris said it appears as if this small group of people is implying that since the answer the board has given does not match their desired answer, they then accuse the school board of not having done its research.

“We’ve done the research. It’s just not the answer that they want,” said McDaris.

Kiviniemi said he agreed with McDaris’s assessment.

“If they don’t like the decision that we have made, then they want to say that we haven’t considered the other options when we clearly have,” said Kiviniemi.

Kiviniemi said the school board needs to let the public know what it has learned in its research, including costs and the economic effect on communities.

Wellborn said she was “amazed” that state Sen. Chuck Edwards had asked the school board why it had not considered consolidation.

Griffin said that he has been in several meetings at which the board’s position on consolidation has been explained.

“It seems to keep falling on deaf ears,” said Griffin. “That’s what troubles me. How many times do we have to repeat the same story over and over and over again.”

Good News Report

•McDaris reported that there were 19 new certified employees this year, a 59 percent decrease in the number of newly hired certified from the previous year.

Topics such as ethics, employee handbook guidelines, curriculum, federal programs, community relations, etc. were discussed during the orientation for the new employees.

•McDaris said the Chamber of Commerce and Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority (TCTDA) had donated 2,000 pairs of eclipse glasses for use during last Monday’s eclipse. The eclipse glasses were delivered by the school nutrition staff and Backpack Buddies through partners such as Rise & Shine and the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County.

Important Dates

•Schools will be closed Labor Day, Sept. 4.

•The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is Monday, Sept. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Morris Education Center.

•Students will be dismissed from school at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

 
 

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