Hopefully, it’s not too late

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 13, 2005

R-C News-Herald Editorial

When are two motions not better than one?

When the second comes without financial consideration.

At last week’s Bertie County Board of Education meeting, a motion was made and unanimously approved to request a meeting with the Bertie Board of Commissioners to discuss the ongoing desegregation litigation with the United States Department of Justice as well as opening dialogue with the Commissioners in regards to funding options for the desegregation plan currently under development by the Board of Education.

The Bertie School Board was correct in their thinking to discuss this extremely important issue with the Commissioners prior to making any financial commitments.

However, the School Board took it one step further than they should have.

In a separate motion, the School Board, in a 3-2 vote, approved a proposed desegregation plan that includes the closing of Askewville, Aulander and J.P. Law elementary schools and the construction of a new elementary school with a capacity of 450 students.

Bertie School Board members Ricky Freeman and Melinda Eure deserve accolades for voting against this measure. They, like most Bertie County citizens, are wondering where the money will come from to build a proposed new elementary school, one with an estimated price tag of $13 million.

While no one would admit it, the second motion closely resembled a recommendation made Nov. 8 by consultants hired to perform a facilities assessment of the Bertie County Public School system. Of the four options, it was recommended that Askewville, Aulander and J.P. Law close as well as making renovations to the three remaining elementary schools (Colerain, West Bertie and Windsor) and building a new elementary facility.

The total cost for that recommendation was estimated at $31.8 million.

Even if the School Board only opts for the new elementary school, where is the proverbial $13 million gold mine?

The county is already committed in several new costly projects, including an $18.5 million middle school, which broke ground last week. The Bertie Board of Commissioners approved borrowing $6 million to help finance that project.

Additionally, the county is currently involved two other costly projects – a recreational facility and a new Department of Social Services building.

To their credit, the Bertie Board of Commissioners have been able to get those three projects off the ground without raising taxes. There’s no guarantee they can do the same if obligated to borrow additional funds to help build a new elementary school.

Three School Board members were incorrect in their judgment last week to approve the spending of Bertie taxpayer’s money without regards to the financial strain it may place on the pocketbooks of their constituents. Their plan should be developed with the Commissioners, not beforehand.

If spending this money for a new school and/or renovations to existing facilities is being done so in order to appease a federal court order, which, by the way, may not be necessary, then a meeting with the Board of Commissioners must first be considered since they are the guardians of the taxpayer’s money.

That meeting will occur at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19 at the Bertie Council on Aging building. The public is invited to attend.

We hope that meeting will not be too late to reverse the actions of the Bertie Board of Education.