Deadline looms

Published 11:34 am Tuesday, October 27, 2015

JACKSON – Next week will be the end of the beginning for a central middle and high school for Northampton County.

The Board of County Commissioners will meet Nov. 2 to decide what to put on the March 15, 2016 ballot – a bond referendum requesting a loan of $34 million for the new 7th-12th grades school just north of Jackson or a request for a supplemental school tax for the Board of Education to build the $34 million school.

The voters of Northampton County will have the final say on March 15, 2016 regardless of which option the commissioners go with.

In previous discussions, the commissioners favor the supplemental tax, while the school board favors the bond referendum.

County taxpayers have been awaiting their chance to weigh in for over five years now.

In August 2010 the commissioners voted unanimously to stop the process for putting a $24 million bond referendum on the Nov. 2010 ballot.

They were reversing an April 2010 vote to proceed with process because debt limit concerns in the county budget and the overall state of the economy, which was still suffering from the 2008 national economic crash.

At the August 2010 meeting, Commissioner James Hester, the former vice chairman of the board, said, “Over the past few weeks I have given this subject a lot of thought and find this proposed action very troubling.

“Before I offer a motion,” he said, “I would like to preface my motion with this comment.

“Please know that I am in no way opposed to the Board of Education’s concept to operate one high school in the county. I fully support the youth of our county, public education and the facilities needed for education. With the financial uncertainty looming over our state government where projected deficits are over $3 billion going into fiscal year 2012 and, due to the current economic uncertainty of our county, state and country, and to preserve the fiscal stability and health of Northampton County and its future, I make the following motion:

“That the Northampton County Board of Commissioners stop all actions pertaining to placing a $24 million new high school referendum on the November ballot and further table the decision until a future date to be determined by this board of commissioners.”

In January 2013 the commissioners and the BOE held a joint meeting to discuss building a central high school. In September 2012 the county’s two high schools merged as the Northampton High School at site of the former Northampton-East High School in Creeksville.

At that joint meeting, the two boards approved a process that would eventually lead to the matter being put to the voters for a vote.

The matter never was put to the voters.

Earlier this year the BOE and the commissioners were ordered by a mediator to hold another joint meeting.

From that meeting in July 2015, the two boards agreed to a plan to put a supplemental school tax on the 2016 ballot to fund what had by then ballooned to $34 million project.

Over the past month, the BOE has been seeking a $34 million bond referendum, but the commissioners have sticking to the joint agreement for a supplemental tax.

The decision must be made Nov. 2 by the commissioners and submitted to the state to be placed on the March 15, 2016 ballot.