Wake County Schools

Wake commissioners want control of school construction

Posted February 4, 2011

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— Twenty-five schools will need to be built in Wake County over the next decade to meet projected enrollment growth, officials said, and some county commissioners want to take control of the process from the school board.

Paul Coble, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said Friday that the county could save money by handling school construction.

"It's actually cheaper for us to do it, when you look at the bottom line. We even get a tax break when we do it. We don't pay sales tax on materials," Coble said, noting that the school board isn't eligible for the same tax break.

Past school boards have resisted suggestions to cede control of school construction to the county, maintaining design and quality of infrastructure are tied to student learning, which is their domain.

The idea resurfaced during a Board of Commissioners retreat on Friday when some commissioners bristled at the school district placing $12 million in county funds last year into a reserve fund.

"What they're saying is perhaps they did not need as much money as they thought they needed," Coble said. "If there's a call for additional funding, we will point them to their reserve balance."

School board members said they need the reserve fund to handle unexpected expenses.

"I think the idea of us having a sound fiscal policy, of having a fund balance, should not be held against the school system," school board member John Tedesco said.

Wake commissioners want control of school construction

Despite the friction, Tedesco and school board Chairman Ron Margiotta said they support the idea of the county handling school construction so they can focus more on educating students.

"I'd love to see the Board of Education spend more quality time focusing on student achievement than on construction," Tedesco said.

School board member Keith Sutton said that, if the board relinquished that control, he would like to see county commissioners increase school funding whenever there's an enrollment increase.

Some county commissioners said they want more time to study the school construction issue before any changes are made.

"When you talk about purpose and function and accountability, I just think we need to sit down and have more dialog," Commissioner James West said.

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  • John Sawtooth Feb 4, 2011

    Agree we can standardize some construction of school designs for savings and efficiency. The county already has construction management capability. This will allow the school board to focus on education and operations, not on construction and architecture.

    Agree charters and vouchers will help - vouchers would also completely destroy any 'threat' of that 'socio-economic segregation' Barbour keeps blathering about.

  • Nancy Feb 4, 2011

    Absolutely turn this over to the County Commissioners, after all, they're closer to the developers who force growth ahead of adequate public facilities being built - let them take the fallout from not having enough roads, schools, transportation, roads, water and sewer to meet the approved rate of build out they oversee.

  • LovemyPirates Feb 4, 2011

    There isn't waste in school construction. At one time, schools were the most beautiful buildings in a community. Now, they are cheap looking, ugly cookie cutter buildings that this generation of tax payers and elected officials should be ashamed of as their legacy.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 4, 2011

    "School board member Keith Sutton said that, if the board relinquished that control, he would like to see county commissioners increase school funding whenever there's an enrollment increase."

    Sure thing Keith. Sit yourself down and write out a nice fat check to the county so that they have the money on hand.

    We should not build even one more school. Time for charters and time for vouchers for private schools. Cut the current cycle of this foolish expensive solution to education.

  • jdupree Feb 4, 2011

    Good for them, someone needs to get control of this. There is a lot of waste in construction of schools. We don't need a different plan for each school other than accomodating the variation of the land and most schools are built on flat lots after grading. We need to use a cookie cutter approach and get bids and hold the contractors to the bid and performance date. Over-runs should be the contractor's problem. Most of all we need to be sure all available space is being utilized before we build and that projections on student population are realistic. We need to tie approval of large development projects to funding/construction of schools so that the developer absorbs the lions share of the school cost as he is the one creating the problem. I have more confidence in our county commisioners than any other entity to protect our tax dollars and to insure the quality of our school facilities.