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BOE returns for additional funds

Budget Committee members were surprised with a request for almost $200,000 for the Washington County schools during their Nov. 12 meeting.
Director of Schools Ron Dykes told committee members he was relaying an official request from the Board of Education for reimbursement of the following costs: $3,500 for carpet in Boones Creek Middle School; $130,000 for a rubberized track at David Crockett High School; and $60,000 for the rubberized track at Daniel Boone High School.
Commissioner Joe Grandy asked if any money is left in the $2.6 million that went to the schools from last year’s debt offering.
Dykes said $900,000 remains, but those funds have been earmarked for new roofs for Westview, Jonesborough and Boones Creek elementary schools and Daniel Boone High School, and an HVAC system for Westview. The roof for Boone alone is estimated to cost $1.7 million.
Commissioner Todd Hensley asked the timeline for the roofs, and Dykes said they should have been replaced in 2004.
“This is something we’re going to have to develop a funding list for,” Mayor Dan Elridge said.
Dykes said the project list doesn’t include the bus replacement scheduled for fiscal 2015-16, which will require the purchase of 12 large buses and six to eight small buses.
“I replace things when they run out,” Hensley said. “I bet we could get more life out of them than the state says.”
According to Dykes, the original use period was 12 years or 200,000 miles. The state has since extended the use to 17 years, though more inspections are required. “Our (fleet staff) don’t feel comfortable about the stress fractures on the buses (that result from extended use), so we stay with 15 years,” he said.
Eldridge said the county would need to look at a bond offering to cover the approximately $4 million in facilities needs and $2 million for buses. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve on maintaining the facilities and buses,” he said. “I would like to look at the next three years in which we have to spend the (current) bond money.”
Referring to additional debt options, Eldridge said general obligation bonds used for capital projects must be shared with the city school system. The requirement does not apply to rural bonds, but they are more expensive.
“Could you use your fund balance for the priorities?” Commissioner Mitch Meredith asked Dykes. “Let’s look at trying to take care of it without having to double the amount.”
Dykes said the short answer is yes. “That’s the board’s intent. These are requests for reimbursements,” he said.
Eldridge said the 42.3 percent difference in funding between the city and county school systems is an unconstitutional disparity, and putting more money in won’t close the gap. He said the Health Education and Welfare Committee will pursue a local solution, which could change the quality of life for Washington County within a single decade.
“As we figure out our priorities, let’s look three years out and get a package so we’re not looking at (a list of needs) every year,” Grandy said.
Eldridge asked Dykes to prepare a list of total needs for more discussion.