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Senate gives tentative OK to shift control of Wake school buildings

Posted July 19, 2013

School construction generic

— The state Senate has given tentative approval to a bill that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over responsibility for the construction and upkeep of area public school buildings.

Currently, the Wake County Board of Education oversees construction and maintenance.

"It's not a political issue. It's common sense," Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said Friday. "All of this is about saving taxpayers money."

County commissioners are responsible for raising taxes and paying construction bonds, he said. So, the county should have direct control over the schools.

Despite Hunt's protestations, the bill does have a distinctly partisan patina about it. Democrats in the Senate oppose the measure, and the current Wake County Board of Commissioners is dominated by Republicans while the current school board, although nonpartisan, is more closely allied with Democrats.

"This is a bad bill for Wake County," Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, said.

Blue said other senators were wary of giving their own county boards the same powers. "But you're willing to do it for Wake County because you are blindly wedded to this concept of partisanship," he said.

In fact, some senators were seeking to have their counties added to Hunt's bill, but Hunt said he wanted to keep it as a standalone bill to help the measure move through the House, where a more wide-reaching measure has faced opposition.

Sen. Neal Hunt on floor Senator says Wake schools bill will save taxpayers money

Hunt said Wake County commissioners asked for the bill because they believe the school board has made poor business decisions. He said they're worried about an $810 million school bond on the ballot this fall.

"They were concerned that, if they did not take over control of school construction, the bond may not pass," Hunt said. "We definitely want the bond to pass, and I think this is the best way to get it done."

Keith Sutton, chairman of the Wake County school board, blasted the legislation.

"Having originated in the Senate, it was of no surprise that such a desperate attempt to pass this legislation, when a bipartisan majority of a house committee has already rejected the idea, has sailed through the Senate chamber," Sutton said.

Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, couldn't be reached for comment.

The bill passed 26-9 on Friday, but senators will have to vote on it a final time next week before sending the measure to the House.

45 Comments

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  • gnostradame Jul 23, 2013

    "No doubt the county commissioners would do a much better job of handling construction. Teachers should teach not build.
    timexliving"

    Except for all the other county boards who control their buildings. This is GOP bullying against a democratic party run county board. Proof of that is that this law will ONLY affect Wake county. Pathetic.

    The way to stop this is for dems to take back the Board of Commissioners in 2014.

  • Krimson Jul 22, 2013

    Hunt: "Give me the money and give me control!"

  • Ex-Republican Jul 19, 2013

    No doubt the county commissioners would do a much better job of handling construction. Teachers should teach not build.

  • westernwake1 Jul 19, 2013

    The circus continues...

  • heelzfan4 Jul 19, 2013

    "miseem" - I agree. I'm all for saving tax dollars!

    "samr" - Very well stated!!

  • beaupeep Jul 19, 2013

    "The *best* way to build schools is to let those who best know the educational requirements to design the space."

    Whoever said that the school board wouldn't have input on the design? They're simply putting the contracts and legal stuff into the hands of those handing out the money. This way the school board will have more time to design bus routes for diversity. It's a liberal win! I doubt Sutton knows architectural design anyway. That's why the commissioners will probably use professionals for that.

  • samr Jul 19, 2013

    We are going to have a constant cycle in the legislature of one party working more on undoing what the other party has done and meanwhile, the people of this state will pay the price. We are seeing it in action right now and I don't see it being different when the Dems are back in power. The current legislature cut off unemployment funds to 170K people with no tangible job creation in its place and a set of abortion regulations that NO ONE can show a legitimate need for. Now we have a power struggle over control of school facilities that only the citizens will ultimately pay for.

  • miseem Jul 19, 2013

    I've heard about the Justice Center also. Seems they went all out on this, in addition to some other county law enforcement facilities. It's all a matter of priorities. Problem is, I doubt the county commissioners priorities are the same as the school board. Who is going to suffer from that bias?

  • heelzfan4 Jul 19, 2013

    This is NOTHING but the Cocky Republican lead Wake County Board of Commissioners wanting more power! If it's so good for wake county, why not for the rest of the state? And the State should stay the heck out of this and let the two boards work things out. The truth is, however, is that there could be savings for tax payers if done appropriately. The County says is can build "more reasonable" buildings and not all these fancy and expensive bldgs. like the school system has done. I say this.... Wake Taxpayers should visit the Wake county Detention center and this new Justice Center. NO expense was spared. We do NOT need such elaborate and fancy buildings in this county. Durable goods, yes; expensive and not necessary, no!

  • Radioactive Ted Jul 19, 2013

    "This is a good thing, the School Board needs to concentrate on educating and curriculum issues." WakeForestLiving
    I see many comments similar to this. What many people don't realize is the relationship of facilities to education. That's one of the challenges with home-schooling, for example. It is also why is it hard to use old schools for apartments or office space. The *best* way to build schools is to let those who best know the educational requirements to design the space.

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