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Judy Grissom column: System has more building needs than funds

In my last article, I discussed the school system’s operating budget. I want to devote this column to our capital needs budget, which is used for facilities, equipment and maintenance. The capital outlay revenue generated from local sales tax in Rowan County for this school year was $4,977,000. A portion of those funds must go to Kannapolis City Schools since part of their school system is in Rowan County. This year Kannapolis schools received $133,212, which left $4,843,788 for Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Unless an increase in capital outlay revenue is received for the 2008-2009 school year, the allocations would remain the same.
When the school bonds were passed in 1993, the School Board and the County Board of Commissioners agreed that the school system would use part of its capital outlay budget each year to help pay back the principal on the bond debt. The portion paid back to the county for the 1993 debt was $2,410,000 this budget year and will be $2,360,000 for the 2008-2009 budget year. This agreement runs through 2016.
The $2,433,788 remaining in the 2007-2008 local capital outlay budget is then separated into three categories.
– Category 1 is for purchasing land, building and building improvements. Some examples of expenditures would be mobile classrooms, door replacements, boiler replacements, restroom renovations, fencing, telephone system wiring, paving improvements, carpeting, matching funds for school designated projects and roof replacement. The current recommendation for 2008-2009 roof replacements carries a cost in excess of $1million!
– Category 2 is for furniture and equipment.
– Category 3 is for vehicles, such as activity buses and maintenance vehicles. The state does provide funding for the replacement of yellow buses that transport our students to and from school. New buses to accommodate growth must initially be purchased with local funds. Yellow buses cost approximately $80,000 each.
The system has two other sources of capital funding:
– Public School Building Capital Fund: estimated at $1.2 million for 2008-2009.
– Lottery Funds: estimated at $2.5 million for 2008-2009.
The Public School Building Capital Fund from the state is used for larger projects and can pay for technology equipment or construction needs. A local match is required if the funds are used for construction needs. Examples include major renovations to or replacement of a school, large roofing projects, etc. Use of the funds for technology equipment does not require a match.
The law allows lottery funds to be used for capital needs; however, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners has designated our lottery funds as payment on the 2003 bond debt. The county has requested $2.5 million from the lottery funds again for this year, and we anticipate that the funds will be about that amount. Therefore, we will not have access to lottery funds again in 2008-2009.
The 2007-2008 school year has been tough for capital outlay funding because of school construction and bond debt. If all the capital outlay funds being used for bond repayments and new construction were totaled for this year, it would be:
– Approximately $2.4 million for payback on the 1993 bond.
– $1.98 million from fund balance transferred to offset escalating construction costs of the bond program, school alterations and additional needs.
– Up to $2.5 million from the lottery.
This totals approximately $6.8 million dollars. The school system is using most of its capital outlay funding for bond projects, which does not leave much for ongoing needs. The alterations and additions list generated each year by the schools and central administration presently contains over $2.2 million in needed and requested projects.
Recently, the school system presented its 10-year capital improvement needs to the county. The report reflected large needs in the future ó new schools and replacing old schools. As a school system, we must address the ongoing frustration of trying to maintain our buildings, replace roofs and make general repairs, etc. with a smaller budget because of the incurred bond fiscal responsibilities.
Whenever staff, parents or students have concerns about a particular project at their school, it is often difficult for them to understand why the school system does not immediately “fix” the problem. Without a full understanding of the limited funds we receive and the restrictions on them ó and the need to prioritize needs ó sometimes it appears that we are not interested in a particular project. That is never the case! We as a school system want to do everything possible to provide a safe climate and to provide equity at all schools for all students and staff. We will continue to partner with the county in finding ways to meet our needs in an effective, efficient manner.
– – –
Dr. Judy Grissom is superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

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