Wake Board of Commissioners moves forward on school construction issues

mquillin@newsobserver.comMarch 17, 2014 

— The Wake County Board of Commissioners promised Monday to fund the school system responsibly this year, clearing the way for land purchases, school design and construction after years of bickering with the Board of Education.

The aim was included in the board’s list of goals for 2014, approved at its regular meeting, where the group also approved an interlocal agreement that says how it will work with the school board on building projects.

The agreement establishes a team of staff members from the county and from the school board whose job will be to establish a line of regular communication between the two entities. It also says that both boards will send a letter to the local delegation of the General Assembly asking that no further action be taken on any current legislative proposal to transfer authority for school construction from the education board to the commissioners.

In the past, the Board of Commissioners has withheld funding from the Board of Education, with some commissioners saying the school board could not be trusted to make the best use of tax money and that county staff could do the work of scouting sites and buildings schools more economically.

At times, the dispute has appeared to stem from a lack of communication between the two groups, with the Board of Commissioners saying it needed more details about how the education board made its spending decisions, and documentation to show those choices made financial sense. Arguments often have followed political party divisions.

Former commissioner Tony Gurley, who proposed the interlocal agreement last year, was no longer on the board to see it come to a vote. He recently resigned his position to take a job with the state.

With the agreement in place, commissioners went on to approve more than $22 million in funding for design work and land purchasing for several schools with relatively little discussion.

In its list of goals for the year, the board also said it would support community discussion and development of transit strategies; push its “healthiest capital county” initiative, working with the private sector to benefit the health of all Wake County residents; and develop a long-term plan to support a high quality of life for those who live here. A full list of the goals and objectives is at WakeGOV.com.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a contract to hire James K. Hartmann as the new Wake County manager, at a base salary of $220,000 a year. Hartmann, who begins work April 14, attended the meeting and said he looks forward to starting the job.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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