New RSS central office budget grew, was covered by donations

Published 12:10 am Monday, March 7, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

After much confusion, controversy and more than 20 years of waiting, Rowan-Salisbury Schools finally has a central office. Friday morning, two moving trucks carted boxes up the rear ramp at the Wallace Educational Forum while contractors planted bare-branched trees in strategic locations around the new parking lot.

There’s still a lot of mud on site, but the fresh asphalt, windows and dome shine in the morning light. The $9 million building has been the talk of the town since well before the school system broke ground in April 2015.

When construction started in the 500 block of North Main Street, the building had a $7,984,503 price tag. As of Friday, the school system spent roughly $8.9 million on the building, with approximately $150,ooo left over. Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said that the remaining money will be used to purchase technology for the forum’s third-floor training room.

The project has not gone over budget, Vann said.

“It has grown some, but it has not exceeded donations,” he said.

When the Board of Education green-lit construction on the building, they had $8,025,000 in available revenue, including a $6.5 million loan that was secured by Rowan County Board of County Commissioners, an $875,000 donation from the Robertson Foundation and a $150,000 donation from Fred Stanback. The figure also included a $500,000 cash and a $150,000 in-kind services contribution from the City of Salisbury.

The $6.5 million loan was approved at an interest rate of 2.48 percent. With $1.32 million in interest, the loan package totals $7.82 million. The district will pay the loan back at a fixed rate over 15 years, with the full amount to be paid by 2030. The loan will be paid through a tax specifically designated for capital improvements.

Total, the project has received nearly $2 million in donations, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its hang-ups. An additional $100,000 – pulled from an easement with Duke Energy – was used to purchase a small plot of land between the new building and Richard’s Barbecue. The plot’s previously existing structure, a house that was located less than 10 feet from the new wall of the forum, was demolished. Richard Monroe, of Richard’s Barbecue, also contributed funds to the purchase of the property and provided $14,147.40 for the demolition of the house.

The building’s steel-plated dome was also a point of contention.

“The budget has grown some with the addition of the dome,” Vann said.

Originally, the Board of Education had the dome added to plans as an alternate element, and had no plans to build it until funds were raised. However, in July 2015 the dome was added to the building without the board’s approval.

“We were at a point where we either prepared for a dome or not,” Vann said.

According to Vann, the Wallace family provided $60,000 to cover the cost of structural steel supports for the structure, and on July 15, the board was given a two-week deadline to raise the remaining $320,196. They received that money on Friday, July 31, also from the Wallace family. Without the donation, the board would have needed to pay to have the supports removed.

Lee and Mona Wallace also gave the school system the central office location in exchange for its offices in the 300 block of N. Ellis Street – with the stipulation that the new building be named after the Wallace family. The district was allowed to use the Ellis Street offices rent-free until it moved into its new home, an arrangement that, at the time, Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody estimated would save the system thousands of dollars.

The new central office was substantially complete on Feb. 4, despite weather delays, and Vann says the system has received a temporary certificate of occupancy. According to the agreement between the district and Barnhill Contracting Co., the building must reach final completion by April 6.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.