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City to look at ways to help with funding gap for office

SALISBURY — Buoyed by the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education’s renewed commitment to constructing a school central office in the downtown, City Council agreed Tuesday to see how Salisbury could help pay for the project.
The School Board, with four new members and a new chairman, voted Monday to resurrect the original proposal for the central office — a 62,000-square-foot facility in the 300 block of South Main Street — and ask the city to make up the difference in cost.
Rowan County commissioners, who will borrow money for the project on the school board’s behalf, capped the budget at $6 million, forcing the school board to scale back the downtown building to 49,000 square feet.
That left no space for the school system’s exceptional children’s department and fueled critics who said the too-small central office would not be truly consolidated.
It will cost about $2 million more to build the larger facility.
Brian Miller said he applauded school board members for moving forward with the amount of space they need to include all departments in one building.
“I’m looking forward to how the city might be a solution provider,” Miller said.
He asked city staff to come up with “scenarios where we might be able to help with financing if necessary.”
Loans for the central office will be paid back with sales tax revenue generated specifically for capital building projects.
The state Local Government Commission still has to agree to let Rowan County, and now possibly Salisbury, borrow money for the central office.
Support from both Salisbury and Rowan County elected officials will strengthen the application, Miller said.
“I’m very excited about movement that has happened in the last two-three weeks,” he said.
City Council agreed to attend a joint meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 3 with school board members and county commissioners.
City Manager Doug Paris thanked new school board Chairman Dr. Richard Miller for the invitation. Paris said the city will come to the meeting prepared to “offer solutions to what the school board is trying to accomplish.”
Miller and Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom attended the City Council meeting. Mayor Paul Woodson thanked them for supporting the downtown location, which has been controversial.
“Enthusiasm has jumped up to a great level again,” Woodson said.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy pledged to continue supporting the project, and Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell thanked the school board for treating the city as a partner.
The city will donate the land for the building, clean up environmental contamination and provide parking for school employees.
In light of that, “I appreciate you recognizing us as a business partner in the process and not as a special interest group,” Blackwell said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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