Wake Ed

December 2, 2013

Wake County Commissioners delay funds for four new schools

The Wake County Board of Commissioners voted Monday along partisan lines to table until January approval of $5 million that school officials wanted to start design work on four new schools.

Work on four more new Wake County schools is being delayed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners voted 4-3 along party lines Monday to table appropriating $5 million that the school system requested to start design work on three elementary schools and a middle school. The items were moved to the January meeting agenda after Commissioner Paul Coble, backed by his Republican colleagues, said he had questions he wanted answered first.

The vote comes after commissioners decided two weeks ago to unanimously table approving letting the school system lease rather than buy the site of the new Abbotts Creek Elementary School at the North Wake Landfill in North Raleigh. The school system had planned to bid out the work this month.

As noted in Sunday’s North Raleigh News article by Sarah Barr, Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, said officials still are figuring out just how long they can wait to get started on Abbotts Creek if they want to meet their goal of opening the school in August 2015.

In terms of the latest vote, it was supposed to be second reading for $3,887.440 for the school system to start design on E-38 in northwest Cary, E-43 at the South Wake Landfill in Holly Springs and M-13 in northeast Raleigh. The two elementary schools are scheduled to open in 2016 and M-13 is scheduled to open in 2017.

The second item that was tabled Monday was second reading for $1.1 million to start design for E-37 in western Cary and additional money for E-43.

Desormeaux said the designs on the new schools won't start as planned. He said they can probably overcome the delay if all else progresses fine.

"These actions absolutely have the potential to impact our ability to open these schools on schedule," school board Chairman Keith Sutton said in a written statement. "While this is also a concern of the Board of Education, we feel confident that we can properly manage these projects, as we have done in the past, and so do a majority of Wake County taxpayers. The Board of Education and school district staff will continue working to improve our process and we look forward to timely approval of these items by the Board of Commissioners."

These actions come as the Republican commissioners have promised more oversight of construction measures proposed by the school board following the recent passage of the $810 million school bond issue. At Monday’s meeting, Phil Matthews was elected chairman and Tony Gurley was elected vice chairman. Both GOP commissioners have been critical of the Democratic-led school board.

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The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui.

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