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Board of Ed determines top priorities for capital projects at schools

During a called meeting June 13, Washington County Board of Education members developed a $2.5 million list of capital needs that would be addressed if the county commission goes ahead with plans to borrow $8.6 million.
Of that, $2.8 million would go to the school system, which would pay it back annually over the next 12 years through a $260,000 increase in state funding.
Director of Schools Ron Dykes said he met with architect Tony Street regarding the long-range educational facilities plan for the school system. Street recommended his top priorities, and Dykes emailed a copy to school board members prior to the called meeting.
Carpet for Jonesborough Elementary School at a cost of $50,000, and $77,000 for the replacement of several school system vehicles were added by the board to Street’s list of recommended priorities.
“We may need to ask for more (money) if the support is there,” board member Keith Ervin said.
School board member Phillip McLain pointed out the $2.8 million proposed for the schools is based on the $260,000 increase in state funding that is available to service the schools portion of the debt and allow it to leverage a lump sum that will be received at one time.
County Commission Chair Greg Matherly explained the overall debt service payments on the loan will be made with dollars from several different funds.
“Each department is giving up (money) to pay their part back,” Matherly told school board members. “We had reached $9.2 million at the end of the last budget meeting.”
The county is limited to $10 million of bank-qualified debt per calendar year.
“That’s a smart way of doing it,” BOE Chair Clarence Mabe said.
In addition to the $2.8 million for building improvements, the proposed debt offering includes $950,000 in reimbursements for the Fall Branch roof, the cooling tower at Boones Creek Elementary and the purchase of nine school buses. The county’s General Fund will cover the debt service for that portion of funds to the schools.
Daniel Boone High School Principal Roger Jackson and Athletic Director Danny Good repeated their request for multipurpose athletic buildings for each high school campus.
Facilities Chair Chad Williams said the demands throughout the system would not allow these buildings to be dedicated for only one purpose. “This was a need when I came on the board seven years ago,” he said.
Board member Jack Leonard suggested dividing the remaining balance from the $2.8 million between the high schools to contribute toward updating their athletic facilities.
Ervin said he did not understand how athletics has risen to the top among all of the other needs. “It burns me up,” he said.
Williams made a motion, seconded by board member Bill Brinkley, to submit a list of capital projects for the debt offering made up of the priorities recommended by Street, carpet for JES and the replacement of some school vehicles, with the remaining balance divided among the county high schools for athletic facilities improvements.
The motion passed with Ervin and Todd Ganger opposed.
Dykes said he had a preliminary meeting with WCSO officials regarding recommendations from the security assessments conducted at all county schools, but the full report will not be ready until mid-July.
“The capital items they are expecting to recommend include panic alarms, fencing, gates, vehicle barriers and hardware door upgrades,” he said.
Dykes told BOE members he understood from Mayor Dan Eldridge that the security assessment needs would be addressed separately, and Matherly agreed.