GC voters to decide fate of new school

Published 10:23 am Monday, August 15, 2016

GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Aug. 3 to request a petition from the School Board to replace Central Middle School at a cost of $16 million, which will increase the county’s property tax rate by 12 cents per $100 of valuation.

County Manager Natalie Rountree said Friday, Aug. 5, that the Board of Education has already responded in the affirmative to the request.

The speedy response from school officials will allow the Board of Commissioners to submit a request to the Board of Elections by Aug. 10 so that the county’s request to borrow the funding for the new school will be on the Nov. 8 ballot for county voters to decide.

Commissioner Henry Jordan stressed, “We need to get this on the ballot so citizens can vote on it in November.”

Voters will decide if the county can move forward and borrow the funds needed to build the new school.

Commissioner Ray Freeman III said the board has been discussing this extensively with the BOE.

Commissioner Jack Owens reminded the board that several Gates County schools are not in great shape and that the board needs to be prepared in case voters reject the new school.

Jordan replied that the BOE “needs to convince voters this is needed.”

Commissioner Billy Felton said that because T.S. Cooper Elementary and Buckland Elementary are old schools, “The School Board needs to come up with a 15-year plan.”

Board Chairwoman Linda Hofler said the 12-cent increase in taxes represents a 16 percent tax increase.

She reminded the board that it is not only the county’s duty to provide good schools, but is necessary to having a strong, healthy county.

She agreed the BOE needs a plan for the coming years.

Freeman said, “I hope citizens will back good schools, but the School Board needs contingency plans.”

Jordan reminded the board that regardless of what happens, Central Middle School must have a new roof that has been estimated to cost $1 million.

If voters agree to fund the new school it would be partly funded by a zero-interest Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) the state Department of Public Instruction has agreed to provide. The county would, therefore, only need $10 million in General Obligation Bond funding through local banks.

The $16 million cost is a decrease from the original $18 million estimate.