School Board to Clarify Central Office Plan

This article by Sarah Campbell was published on August 23, 2011 in The Salisbury Post in Salisbury, NC.  

EAST SPENCER — A lawyer for the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education plans to meet with a representative from the Local Government Commission later this week to address concerns regarding the latest central office plan.

Rod Malone, an attorney with Raleigh-based Tharrington Smith Attorneys at Law, told the school board Monday he plans to meet with the state agency to get some clarity before the school system moves forward.

“There have been enough issues brought out in the newspaper and otherwise that we thought it would be good to get some feedback,” he said.

Leslie Heidrick, the county’s finance director, told the Post last week that the proposal in its original form could face some challenges from the Local Government Commission.  She cited the $1.5 million in New Market Tax Credits as something that jumped out to her as a hurdle, noting the agency doesn’t approve “contingent financing.”

Heidrick also told the Post financing scenarios that include $1 million and $2 million in principal reductions would also likely be blocked by the Local Government Commission because of the backlog of debt they would create.

Malone said he’s confident the district and the Local Government Commission can come up with a plan that will work.  “It’s just a matter of getting the payment stream in a manner that they’ll find acceptable,” he said.

The school board will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 6 to get the details for the proposed 62,000-square-foot facility in downtown Salisbury.

“That will be a good time to get into the nuts and bolts of what’s being proposed,” Malone said.

During that meeting, board members will also be asked to approve a pre-development agreement.  The agreement will then be presented to county commissioners during their Sept. 19 meeting.  If approved by both parties, private developer Bryan Barwick will be able to move foward with the design nd planning process.  During Monday’s public comment period, County Commissioners Jon Barber addressed the board regarding the central office plan.

“A consolidated central office located in the historic district of downtown Salisbury has the ability to create a significant number of new jobs,” he said. “According to a report titled ‘The Impact of Historic Preservation on the North Carolina Economy,’ for every $1 million invested in a new building, located in a historic district, it is estimated that 36 new jobs are created.

“For the proposal under consideration, that means potentially 252 new jobs.  Salisbury resident Marina Bare also spoke to the board, asking members to not move forward with the plan.

“Instead of building a new building, use existing facilties and renovate them,” she said.

Bare compared the central office to Fibrant.

“It is just a good money-funneling project to take money away from the real school needs,” she said. “You do not need to spend more money on yourself than on the kids.

“You know they don’t need a fancy building in downtown.”

Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said funding for a central office and capital improvements at schools are two separate issues.

She said current central office proposal is a viable option because it requires no up-front funds and no lease payments until administrators move in.

“The funds to lease the property will come from the savings of combining the central offices, but that money does not come about unless we vacate the buildings,” she said. “if we are going to use that money for the schools than we need to vacate the buildings and go sit on the sidewalk.”