Under the Dome

School districts can lease buildings, but not make state pay

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday allowing school districts to enter long-term leases for school buildings designed just for them.

The bill allowing lease-build agreements was written with Robeson County in mind, but would apply statewide. The talk in Robeson is of vacating 30 schools and working with a developer to build fewer new schools for lease. State Treasurer Janet Cowell objected to an earlier version of the bill, but provisions she objected to were removed.

The bill proposes that counties will pay the leases with help from local money saved from operating fewer schools. An earlier version of the bill would also have allowed the use of state savings, meaning the state would have been on the hook for county debt.

In the revised bill, the state would not be responsible for county debt. The Treasurer’s office dropped its objections to the bill.

“This is just getting one new way for our rural counties to build schools,” said Sen. Jane Smith, a Lumberton Democrat.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner