Local Politics

Gurley: Wake schools should fire attorneys

Posted May 8, 2008 4:56 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2008 11:14 a.m. EDT

— A Wake County commissioner on Thursday urged the county school system to fire its attorneys because of confusion that officials said cost local taxpayers more than $600,000.

North Carolina school districts aren't exempt from state sales tax, so local officials agreed two years ago to shift ownership of schools to the county, which is tax-exempt and could purchase construction materials and everyday supplies like paper while saving the 6.75 percent sales tax.

County Manager David Cooke said in a memo last month that the district has been so slow in handing over the deeds to the schools that $615,981 in tax savings has been lost.

Commissioner Tony Gurley said Thursday that the lost savings has now topped $700,000, and he blamed the district staff and lawyers for Tharrington Smith, which represents the district, for the problem.

"The next step is for the school system to get new attorneys," he said.

Tharrington Smith officials declined to comment, but district officials were quick to defend their lawyers.

"I think we have a very good attorney," school board member Lori Millberg said. "I think this has been a very complicated process."

District administrators have disputed the math Cooke used to calculate the lost savings, contending the amount is closer to $70,000.

Millberg said the district has transferred deeds to more than half of its property, which has saved more than $2 million in sales tax.

"Every dollar we get is a tax dollar. What we're doing is using tax dollars to pay taxes," she said. "We are trying to do what's best for taxpayers."