Gates seeks state funds for school construction

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

GATESVILLE – Gates County officials will seek money from a newly created state fund set aside for new school construction in North Carolina’s poorest rural areas.

In an emergency meeting held Oct. 6, the Gates County Commissioners voted without objection to approve an application in the amount of $2.5 million from the state’s Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund.

Gates County Manager Natalie Rountree said the emergency session was needed in order to meet the Oct. 11 deadline for submitting an application. The commissioners were not scheduled to meet until early next month.

Rountree said the request to apply for the newly created state funding came from Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Public Schools.

“They (the county’s school system) is planning to use this money, if approved, for the pending project at Central Middle School,” Rountree said. “What we were told was this funding would be used partly for new construction and the other part for the renovation of the seventh grade wing.”

Rountree confirmed that any money coming from the Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund is considered “new funding for the project.”

This is in addition to the $8 million we’ve already approved for the Central Middle School project,” Rountree said, referencing a decision made earlier this year by the Board of Commissioners.

She noted that the $8 million has not yet been borrowed from a financial institution.

“We have to first gain the approval of the LGC (Local Government Commission) for the project before we can borrow the money,” she said. “We are still in the process of getting all the necessary documents together to present to the LGC.”

One downside to approval of a Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund application is that the county will not be eligible to receive its annual allotment from the North Carolina Education Lottery for a period of five years.

“That (lottery proceeds) varies in dollar amount from year-to-year,” Rountree noted, adding that this year’s payment to the county is $111,000. “We budget that money annually to cover the debt payments on the last school construction project.”

To offset the loss of lottery revenue, Rountree said the Gates County Board of Education has agreed to forego the extra $100,000 they receive annually from the county for Capital Outlay projects.

“We typically budget $200,000 annually to the schools for Capital Outlay; that was increased to $300,000 this year,” she said. “That extra $100,000 comes from the additional $600,000 we are now receiving from the state who has devised a new formula for the distribution of state sales tax. We planned to set aside the other $500,000 of that new money to make the debt service payments for the Central Middle School project.”

Rountree said the county will be contacted next month concerning their Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund application.

“We should know by early November is our application has been approved or denied,” she stated.

There is only $30 million available this year across the state in the Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund. That figure is slated to increase to $75 million next year.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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