Home Search Website



 

 

Article 25

January 25. 2006 11:59AM

Timetable set for school construction

By ERIC FRAZIER
The Dispatch


School construction financed with the bonds Davidson County voters approved in November will be spread over six years, meaning the list of projects tied to the referendum will be completed in 2011.

In all, the election authorized the county to issue $71.6 million in general obligation bonds. Davidson County Community College won approval for $5.2 million. Lexington City Schools will receive $10.9 million, Thomasville City Schools will receive $7 million and Davidson County Schools will spend the remaining $48.5 million.

The county commissioners may have wished they had a crystal ball Tuesday night, but to make their decision, they relied on three sets of spreadsheets prepared by Assistant County Manager Zeb M. Hanner.

Administrators for Davidson County Schools had urged the board to choose a five-year timetable, dubbed Option 1, to complete the work. Hanner sketched out two less aggressive plans that stretched the building projects over six and seven years.

"I think the middle ground is probably the place for us to be," recommended County Manager Robert Hyatt. The board took his advice and voted 6-0 for Option 2. Don Truell was absent due to illness.

Each of the three options attempted to forecast the effects of borrowing on the county budget, particularly on cash reserves left in the fund balance after meeting what will be mounting debt payments for years to come. The fund balance would decline under all three proposals.

"We're going to start hitting problems in the fifth year whether we do Option 1, 2 or 3," Hanner told the commissioners. "It just comes faster."

Under the timetable sought by the schools, the county's fund balance would shrink from more than $22 million to $18 million, or about 13.8 percent of general fund expenditures. State regulators insist local governments maintain a minimum of 8 percent cash reserves. Option 2 would leave a 17 percent fund balance.

By delaying part of the borrowing, county officials hope anticipated growth of tax revenues will help cover the larger debt payments. But delaying the projects will mean higher construction costs and continued overcrowding due to enrollment growth.

Dr. Fred Mock, superintendent of the county schools, Don Palmer, chairman of the board of education, and several administrators quietly left the meeting room after the vote. Their disappointment was evident.

"Our board of education had requested Option 1," Mock said in an interview. "My bottom-line concern is having classrooms to put children in, in the north Davidson and Ledford areas, particularly.

"It's going to be tight. We're going to do the best we can with what we've been allocated."

All three scenarios assumed the 54-cent county property tax rate will not be raised, but all three relied on keeping that rate intact after an expected revaluation in 2007.

Commissioners Chairman Fred McClure acknowledged that approach will be viewed as a tax increase.

"To me, it's a much fairer tax increase, to let the government grow as the county grows," he said.

All three options allowed DCCC to begin a series of projects and Lexington City Schools to begin its new intermediate school in the first year.

Under Option 1, the county school system would have begun a new elementary school in the western Davidson area the first year. A second elementary school in the central area would have been built in the second year and a new northern area middle school would have come in the fourth year.

Thomasville also would have begun its primary, middle and high school renovations in the first year.

Option 2 calls for the county's second elementary school to be pushed into the third year and the middle school to be delayed until the fifth year. Renovations at other county schools are spread out, and Thomasville will also have to delay work on the primary school until the second and third year.

Option 3 would have meant the new county middle school would be pushed off the chart, beyond budget year 2010-11.

That was unacceptable to Max Walser, who is a former county superintendent. He argued for Option 1 and distributed a document detailing rapidly rising construction costs for new schools across the state.

"I don't think they can build what was promised," he said. "It's going to be tough with the money they've got. The longer you wait, the tougher it's going to get."

Cindy Akins worried that beginning too many projects at the same time would make it difficult for school officials to keep track of all the work.

Larry Potts questioned whether enough contractors were available to start all of the projects in Option 1.

Sam Watford, who made the motion to adopt Option 2, was convinced the middle option was fast enough and represented the best stewardship of taxpayer funds.

"In 2006-07, we're going to have $25 million worth of school construction going on in this county," he observed. "... You can't compare that to anything that's ever happened in this county. I think we're going wide-open."


Hanner noted after the meeting that many variables make five-year prognostications dicey for county governments. State mandates, like the recent order to purchase new voting machines, can significantly alter budgets. His forecast also assumes all departments will spend everything they have budgeted, but for several years, most have achieved savings that kept the fund balance higher than initially predicted.

Eric Frazier can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 226, or eric.frazier@the-dispatch.com.



Click here for Next Article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Thomasville Times:
Please visit their website .thomasvilletimes.net

Lexington Dispatch:
Please visit their website.
.the-dispatch.com
 

 

 

 
  

Home ] Mission Statement ] Biograghy ] Photo Gallery ] Campaign News ] 1st Term Archive ] 2nd Term Archive ] 3rd Term Archive ] Contact Sam ] Support Sam ] Links ]

Paid for by Sam Watford
webmaster@samwatford.com