Board approves Capital Project Ordinance

Published 11:22 am Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Commissioners took a fiscal step towards the building of a new high school Monday night.

During their regular meeting the board unanimously approved a Capital Project Ordinance and moved $300,000 from the School Capital Reserve to be appropriated for the new school.

“This will be for the work you’re doing toward the new high school,” Interim County Manager Morris Rascoe said. “We need a line item in the budget for the expenses that we have incurred. We need to do this whether you proceed with the project or not.”

The ordinance defines the project as construction and equipping of the new high school and directs the Finance Officer to report quarterly to the Board of Commissioners on the financial status of the project.

It also designates $220,000 for contingency and the other $80,000 for four specific projects. They include $30,000 for professional services, $25,000 for surveying and wetlands delineation, $15,000 for legal services and $10,000 for permits and fees.

In addition the ordinance calls for the budget officer to include an analysis of past and future costs and revenues for the capital project in each annual budget submitted as long as the ordinance remains in effect.

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry said the ordinance was necessary no matter what the future of the project held and moved to approve it. Commissioner Charles L. Smith offered a second and it passed on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Rick Harrell not at the meeting.

The budget ordinance was the only measure by the commissioners about the new high school, but John Davis of Merry Hill spoke during public comment to address his concerns about the issue.

“Building a new school for Bertie County’s future is a good thing,” he said. “The rust of late is concerning. I understand you have waited until the interest free money will disappear. Why you did that I will never know, but you did. So now we have a deadline and more questions than answers.”

Davis said he believed the board should work to use the subsidy from the federal government for the Qualified School Construction Bonds, but not to break ground until some of the questions are answered.

He then gave a list of concerns about the school.

“Is there any potential left with Republic to expand the landfill volume to pay for this new school,” he asked. “The number their last manager shared with the public alone could have paid our debt service on this school.”

Davis also said with the 12 percent revaluation the county could raise $1 million in new revenue at the current 78 cent per $100 valuation tax rate.  He added that the current annual debt service is equivalent to 15.7 cents of the tax rate.

“As we move into the future our current debt service on existing projects will be retired and those funds can be directed to the new school,” he continued. “You cannot say the new school causes a tax increase for the entire time it is paid.”

Davis also suggested finding a new site for the school and said 25 acres should be enough. He said farmland in the county sells for $4,000 per acre and even with a 50 percent premium, it should be bought for $150,000. Site prep, he said, would cost $1 million or less, leaving a savings of more than half of the currently proposed $3 million in site prep alone.

“Get the loan guarantee if you can, but break ground when the questions are answered,” he closed.