Wake County Commissioners making another run for school construction authority

Posted by T. Keung Hui on November 18, 2013 

UPDATE: The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 along party lines to approve requesting the school board to enter into an inter-local agreement over school construction authority.

Republicans backed the measure, saying that it will be a way to save taxpayers money asking the school board to give them construction authority.

Democrats argued that they should first discuss the agreement with the school board before voting on the item.

A new effort by Wake County commissioners to assume school construction authority is one of a number of school-related items on Monday’s meeting agenda.

At the request of County Commissioner Tony Gurley, an inter-local agreement has been drafted which would allow the school board to turn over school construction authority to the commissioners. The agreement probably will go nowhere with the school board, but it could lay the groundwork for the next attempt by commissioners to get legislation to assume school construction power.

In July, the state House rejected a bill that would have given school construction authority in Wake to commissioners.

At an August meeting of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, Gurley said legislators told commissioners they should first exhaust all their options within state law to assume more construction power for schools. Gurley said legislators told them that if the school board rejected these efforts, they should then try for a second time to pass the legislation during the short session that begins in May.

The first step today would be to see if the commissioners will pass the agreement. With a 4-3 GOP majority, it’s got the votes if all the Republican commissioners stick together.

Gurley then wants the school board to vote on the agreement at its Dec. 3 meeting.

Under the agreement, the school board could pass a resolution asking the commissioners to assume responsibility for owning, siting, acquiring, constructing, equipping, expanding, improving, repairing and renovating a school property. Any properties transferred would be the responsibility of the county for a minimum of 10 years.

Since the school board fought so hard against the school construction bill, it would be a surprise if it approved the agreement.

Several other school issues are on the agenda.

The commissioners will vote on a resolution naming the new CTE high school after the late Vernon Malone, a former state Senator and former chairman of both the county commissioners and school board. In a related vote, the commissioners will vote on a 20-year lease, at $1 a year, for the school system to use the CTE high school.

Also on the agenda are votes on approving the list of projects in the school construction program approved by voters, allocating money from the 2006 and 2013 bond issues and construction of Abbotts Creek Elementary School.

Joe Bryan, chairman of the county board of commissioners, is also likely to mention last month’s passage of the $810 million school construction bond issue during the State of the County address.

Today also marks the last meeting for retiring County Manager David Cooke. The last item on the agenda is appointing an interim manager while the county conducts the search for Cooke’s successor.

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