The Transylvania Times -

Board Discusses Having Bond Vote Next March


June 8, 2017

Monday evening members of the Transylvania County Board of Education discussed the possibility of having a bond referendum in March of 2018 during the primaries as opposed to having it during the general election in November of 2018.

Vice Chairman Ron Kiviniemi expressed concern that the state Senate budget proposes a $1.9 billion statewide school bond referendum for November of 2018. He said that statewide referendum could have a negative impact on a local bond referendum.

“I think that would be confusing to the general electorate if we had both a statewide bond issue and a local bond issue on the ballot at the same time,” said Kiviniemi.

Kiviniemi said the public might mistakenly assume that a state bond referendum would handle all of the school system’s construction needs.

Since Transylvania County does not qualify as a low-wealth or small school system, it would receive only $1.7 million from a statewide bond referendum, which is less than 2 percent of the county school system’s $93 million in capital needs.

“Do we have the time to strongly consider asking that our bond issue be on the March primary ballot so that we don’t face that confusion?” asked Kiviniemi.

“Yes, if we get some things in motion fairly quickly,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris, “but I am not the expert. A large part of this will be up to the Local Government Commission.”

McDaris said that once the school board and county commission agree on a bond referendum, it must then be approved by the Local Government Commission. Members of the school board and county commission would then need to attend community meetings to encourage residents to support the bond.

Norris Barger, director of business services and plant operations, said it usually takes about a year to “get everything in line we need to get in line.”

Kiviniemi asked school staff what they thought the impact of having a state bond referendum and a local bond referendum on the same ballot would be.

“I don’t think it helps you,” said school board attorney Chad Donnahoo.

McDaris said having the two bonds together could be “problematic.” But he also said there would be a lower turnout in a primary, especially if there are not many races in one party.

Since unaffiliated voters often do not vote during primaries, the turnout is lower than a general election, which Donnahoo said can skew the results.

Donnahoo said Rutherford County held a referendum during a primary and it failed, although he added that he did not know if that was the reason the bond failed.

Kiviniemi said that any decision about when to hold the referendum should be driven by data that gives the local bond the best possibility of passing.

Board member Marty Griffin said he thinks voters may incorrectly assume that the county will be receiving more from a state bond than it would. He noted that Swain County would receive about $12.7 million in a statewide referendum because that school system is considered a low wealth and small school system.

“Everybody may be thinking that’s what we’re going to get,” said Griffin.”I think people think everyone’s going to get an equal amount. That could be confusing.”

Board Chairwoman Tawny McCoy said if the board decides to hold the referendum during the general election, they would need to explain what the state bond would do and why Transylvania County would receive only $1.7 million.

“And why Swain County would get $12 million and Transylvania only $1.7 million,” said Kiviniemi. “They qualify as low wealth. They qualify as small school system.”

Griffin also said he is afraid voters would see having two bonds on the same ballot as being taxed twice.

“They’re going to pick one or the other and vote for it,” said Griffin. “That is what is scary to me.”

Board member Alice Wellborn said she was concerned about a low voter turnout, particularly from unaffiliated voters, during a primary.

“It’s the number of unaffiliated voters in this county that kind of scares me though,” said Wellborn.

Wellborn said one third of the county’s voters are unaffiliated. Barger said the last time the county passed a bond for the schools there also was a statewide bond referendum on the same ballot.

“It was the same situation back,” said Barger.

McDaris said the sooner the school board starts the process, the sooner they would find out the date for a bond that the Local Government Commission would approve.

McCoy requested, and the board agreed, that McDaris research voter participation in the elections and also contact the county manager about the possibility of having the bond referendum in March.

The board also agreed to hold another bond workshop at the beginning of July.

Hungry Children

Carolyn Barton director of child nutrition, said the school system is expanding its summer lunch program this year. She said they would be delivering to more than 30 sites and 30-35 programs this summer. Those sites include the public pools, the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club, Rise & Shine, local churches and enrichment programs conducted by the schools. She also said they are expanding the number of meals served on bus routes. Last summer they served more than 2,000 meals, even though they started after July 4.

“We could serve 3,000 to 4,000 meals on the bus this summer, which is pretty extraordinary,” said Barton.

There are six stops in Rosman, four stops in Brevard and two stops in Pisgah Forest. In addition, the Backpack Buddies program will continue this summer and has been approved to receive 200 packs a week from MANNA Food Bank. Barton also said the number of students being served throughout the school year through Backpack Buddies has increased to more than 300. She said food stamps only last a family for about three weeks, so other food sources are needed.

“They don’t have all the food they need,” said Barton. “I know the children need that program.”

She said there are children who will open a can of tuna on Friday afternoon and eat it on the bus because they want to be sure they have something to eat that weekend.

“We have so many families in our county that are food insecure, and I don’t the think the general public as a whole realizes the extent that it is in Transylvania County,” said Kiviniemi.

As for food served during the school year, Barton said the county serves about $100,000 in fresh produce.

“We have a lot to be proud of in that regard,” she said. “That’s about 10 percent of our entire food expenditure.”

She said some of the reimbursements are increasing, but it is still not enough to cover the cost of a plate of food. She said the money she receives has to pay for food and labor. In North Carolina, expenses such as retirement and hospitalization are not covered by the state.

Barton said that because of the school system’s small size it is difficult to “overcome” the fixed expenses like retirement and hospitalization contributions.

Before the board unanimously passed the school nutrition bids for next year, Barton said the school lunch prices would remain the same for the 2017-18 school year. Breakfast for students is free. The reduced price for lunch is 40 cents. Elementary school lunch is $2.25. Middle and high school regular lunch is $2.50; the extreme meal lunch is $2.75.

Cost for adults is $1.50 for breakfast and $3.50 for lunch.

Friday Medal

McDaris has been selected as one of the seven North Carolina school superintendents to receive the prestigious Friday Medal. The awards ceremony will be held on Nov. 15, 2017 at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in Raleigh.

“That award is because of the hard work of everybody in this school system,” said McDaris.

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at N.C. State University’s College of Education honors significant, distinguished and enduring contributions to education through advocating innovation, advancing learning and imparting inspiration. The Friday Medal is given annually to selected individuals who embody the mission and spirit of the Friday Institute. Past recipients include:

•Judge Howard E. Manning Jr., former Superior Court Judge who oversaw enforcement of Leandro v. State of North Carolina

•Muriel Thomas Summers, principal of A.B. Combs Leadership Elementary School and co-author of “The Leader in Me”

•Hon. James B. Hunt, Jr., former governor of the State of North Carolina.

Retirees Honored

The school board honored 16 retirees who have served a total of 337 years in the public schools.

“We have the best school system in the state and it’s because of you,” said McCoy.

The names, positions, years served and schools of the retirees are as follows:

•Lynn Brockman-Gibson, teacher, Pisgah Forest Elementary, 42 years

•Brenda Campbell, school nutrition, Rosman Elementary, 8 years

•Ronnie English, custodian, Rosman High/Middle, 7 years

•Shane Foreman, custodian and bus driver, Rosman Elementary, 7 years

•Eva Gray, teacher assistant, Pisgah Forest Elementary, 22 years

•Barbara Lovell, office support, T.C. Henderson, 10 years

•Colleen Mackey, teacher assistant, Pisgah Forest Elementary, 30 years

•Leigh Anne McJunkin, bookkeeper, Brevard high, 24 years

•Tony Meachum, principal, T.C. Henderson, 33 years

•Robert Merrill, custodian, Brevard High 6 years

•Chris Miller, teacher, Brevard Elementary, 29 years

•Sheila Mooney, school counselor, Davidson River, 18 years

•Charles Pace, custodian, Brevard Middle, 15 years

•Renee Pagano, teacher, Brevard Middle, 34 years

•Doug Persek, maintenance technician, plant operations, 19 years

•Mike Shotwell, teacher, Brevard Middle, 33 years.

The school board also recognized several former retirees who came out of retirement to serve in interim administrative roles this past year. They are:

•Tammy Bellefeuil, interim principal, Brevard High

•Allen Credle, interim assistant principal, Brevard High

•Cathy Credle, interim principal. T.C. Henderson

•Virginia Haynes, assistant principal, Brevard High

•Bill Parker, interim administrative support, Rosman Elementary.

Important Dates

Friday, June 9, is the last day of school. Students will be dismissed at noon.

Davidson River School graduation will be held Friday, June 9, at 10 a.m. on the school grounds.

Brevard High School graduation will be held Friday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at the Brevard Music Center.

Rosman High School graduation will be held Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m. at the Brevard Music Center.

June 12-16 will be teacher workdays.

On Monday, June 19, administrative offices will begin their four-day work week for the summer.

The board cancelled its June 19 meeting. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the school board will be Monday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Morris Education Center.


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