School board, Rowan-Cabarrus disagree on early college expenses

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2013

SALISBURY — The school board has agreed to buy the Rowan County Early College mobile facility, but it disagrees with the total price that Rowan-Cabarrus Community College wants it to pay.
For the past year, the early college has been located in a nearly 8,000-square-foot mobile unit leased by Rowan-Cabarrus.
The community college provides space on its campus for the program and gives students the opportunity to take college courses for credit. The Rowan-Salisbury School System pays for teachers for the high school classes.
The program moved out of a building at Rowan-Cabarrus after it began renovations to create more space for its classes.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to buy the mobile unit for $253,000 through a lease purchase agreement. The school system would make payments of about $7,800 per month. It would own the mobile unit in three years and take care of future expenses.
But the community college also has asked for a payment of about $202,000 to cover past expenses, including the relocation of equipment, related construction and the installation and maintenance of the mobile classroom unit.
That total was negotiated down from nearly $258,000 after Assistant Superintendent Gene Miller objected to the cost of some of the items listed.
“We said, ‘We can’t pay this, and we should not have to pay this. We didn’t have a say in why you spent this money or how you spent this money,’ ” he said.
But the new number still didn’t satisfy the school board Monday. It voted 4-1 to grant half of Rowan-Cabarrus’ request, or $101,000.
Board members L.A. Overcash and Josh Wagner were absent from the meeting.
Richard Miller, chairman of the board, said Rowan-Salisbury officials met with others from Rowan-Cabarrus to propose buying the mobile unit, and that’s when the other expenses were raised.
“If we were involved in the process instead of just told about it, we could have saved some costs,” he said.
Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, said Thursday that the college was just following its normal construction process.
It hired a local architect to do the planning and a site coordinator to supervise the installation. “They were not consulted ahead of time because we didn’t know they were going to be interested in purchasing it,” she said. “We do think it’s a good idea that they purchase it. … We said, ‘You can buy it, but this is how much it cost to put it together.’ ”
Rowan-Cabarrus signed a two-year lease for the mobile unit, she said, and planned to consider its options when the lease agreement ended. It’s possible the college would have decided to purchase it if the school board did not.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Chuck Hughes voted against repaying any of the expenses. He said it seems like the school board is being asked to pay everything, and there should be more negotiation with the community college first.
Board Member Kay Wright Norman said school officials should come up with an estimate of what it would have cost them to do the same work and propose that number instead.
Richard Miller made the suggestion to offer $101,000 instead of $202,000. The early college program is a partnership, he said, so maybe both partners can split the cost.
Spalding said Thursday that Rowan-Cabarrus paid to hook up the plumbing and power, connect telephones, run fiber optic cable, install an alarm system, build accessible ramps and decks, build sidewalks, create a bus parking lot and more.
“We did quite a bit of work on this, and we didn’t pass those charges on to them,” Spalding said.
Some of those items were included in the college’s first request but removed during negotiation.
Spalding said she is surprised that the request was an issue at Monday’s school board meeting, and she expects officials from the community college and the school board will discuss it again soon.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.