Wake commissioners want say in building, maintaining schools
Posted November 18, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County commissioners voted Monday night in favor of a proposal that would give them more say over how county schools are built and maintained.
The 4-3 vote along party lines is the latest chapter in more than a decade of power struggles between the county commissioners and school board.
Commissioner Tony Gurley said he put the item on Monday's agenda because school board members are beginning to plan how to use the $810 million in bond money voters approved last month.
“Now’s a good time to ask the school board to basically give county commissioners a seat at the table to determine how that money is spent,” he said.
The proposal would let the county and school board jointly decide to let the county take over some or all responsibility for particular properties owned by the school system.
That's a different approach from last summer, when Gurley asked lawmakers to pass a bill that would have taken control of Wake County school property away from the Democratic-controlled school board, giving it to the Republican-controlled county commissioners instead.
The takeover bill was shot down twice. Gurley says his newest proposal is a compromise.
“Instead of us demanding everything and the school board denying us everything, the current law allows us to cooperate, and that’s what we are trying to do,” Gurley said.
Republicans said the talks should start immediately because they're concerned about bidding processes for several new schools. The proposal would require the school board to verify that it's complying with state contract law. Democrat Caroline Sullivan said the board of commissioners should be asking for the school board's cooperation rather than mandating it.
The Wake County school board didn't know about the proposal in advance. School board Chairman Keith Sutton said he couldn't comment on the specifics until the board discusses it.
The commissioners asked the school board to vote on the agreement at its Dec. 17 meeting.