Central office plan for schools ëlooks intriguingí

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY ó The Rowan-Salisbury School System is eying a central office building downtown, but the proposal will have to clear some hurdles first.
ěIt will be interesting to see if the plan can come to fruition,î Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said Friday. ěThere are a couple of pieces of the plan that have to pass muster.
ěFrom the details Iíve seen so far, it looks intriguing.î
The first step is getting permission from county commissioners to go into a lease/purchase agreement with Barwick & Associates.
Bryan Barwick, a private developer with the Charlotte-based firm, presented the plan for the three-story 62,000- square-foot facility Thursday.
The more than $8.6 million project will come in at about $6.9 million after a $1.5 million New Market Tax Credit is taken into account, along with a $200,000 school board option to purchase fee.
Barwick said the total monthly cost, including a principal and interest payment along with fees and taxes, comes in at $49,191. That figure converts to more than $590,000 annually.
During years eight and nine of the 25-year lease agreement, the district would have the option to buy the building for about $6 million.
ěThe goal is at the end of the seven years that the school board purchases this building,î Barwick said.

Mitchell couldnít say what direction the board will take on the matter, but he did say the financials sound appealing.
ěIt appears this deal has been presented in a way that will not require county money,î he said. ěI guess that is one of the big selling points. I have to admit that is a pretty good start.î
The school system has been unsuccessful at bids to get money from commissioners to build a central office in the past.
ěI just hate that over the last 20 years that this thing has evolved into a huge issue with a lot of people who donít want to see the idea come up at all,î Mitchell said. ěI would probably be in that camp if it was going to require a financial commitment from the county.î
Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for the district, said the school system can make the plan work without a tax increase or dollars from the county.
The money the school system receives from the state sales tax is currently going toward an annual $2.2 million payment for the 1992 bond, which will be paid off in 2015.
ěAt that point the school board will be able to use that money for any building purpose they want,î Mitchell said.
The state mandates those sales tax dollars be spent solely on construction.
ěI think thatís the big distinction to make, that money canít be used to pay for teachers or purchase textbooks,î Mitchell said.
The school system wonít have to begin making payments until officials move into the building in 2013.
Miller said the district will have $200,000 to put toward mortgage payments right off the bat with savings from the consolidation of five offices into one.
ěI think there is certainly some merit to the argument that there is some loss of money with the central office being divided up,î Mitchell said.
Miller said the current Ellis Street Administrative Office can also be sold.

Barwick plans to build on Main Street near the former fitness center on land currently owned by the city.
The plan banks on the donation of the land, which is valued at $200,000.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz said City Council has not discussed donating the land to the school system for the project.
ěI think itís a very exciting idea,î she said Friday. ěThe Council would need to get pretty thorough financial information and a recommendation from the staff before they make a decision.î
Kluttz said she worked for the school system when the schools first merged in 1989 and she knows the challenges presented by having multiple offices.
ěI can understand the need and, of course, we would love to see development downtown,î she said. ěIím sure all of us would agree that it would be a wonderful idea if all the details could be worked out.î
Assistant City Manager Doug Paris said Friday he could not say what kind of recommendation city officials will give council regarding the donation of the land.
ěCertainly, the city would be open to hearing the proposal,î he said.
Paris said one benefit of having the central office built downtown would be the tax revenue generated during the time its owned by the private developer.
ěA spillover benefit involved with having that many people downtown is that those people would have lunch downtown and shop downtown,î he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.