No plan yet for grant match

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2020

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JACKSON – No decisions have been made yet about the Northampton Board of Commissioners helping to fund new school construction through a state grant.

In November, Northampton County Schools received the news that they were one of six school districts across the state to receive a grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. They were awarded $15 million—the highest amount available to district located in a Tier One county—to be used for new school construction.

That construction will most likely be a high school in a more centralized location, but discussions are still ongoing. Currently, Northampton’s only high school is located in the western portion of the county in Gaston.

Assistant Schools Superintendent Kelvin Edwards told the News-Herald there was no time limit on the use of funds from the grant.

One stipulation on the grant money, however, is a local match from the county government. For Tier One counties like Northampton, the match is $1 from the county for every $3 in grant funds. For a $15 million grant, Northampton County is required to match $5 million.

The News-Herald reached out to County Manager Charles Jackson for an update on any plans for the grant match.

“Although the Board of Commissioners are aware of the $15 million grant, the Board has not determined any final decisions on funding additional area high schools,” he explained. “However, it is the intent of the Board to always make financial decisions that fit the best interests for county residents.”

At the Dec. 2 meeting of the county commissioners, Board Chair Charles Tyner said several things, including the much-discussed Lake Gaston project, would have to be “put on the backburner” in order to come up with the $5 million in funding.

Jackson clarified that the Board has tabled any immediate decisions about development of the Lake Gaston property located on Edwards Beach Road, but also confirmed the sale of the six acres in question closed on Dec. 20.

The contract concerning that parcel of land, which lists the cost as $50,000 per acre, was approved by the commissioners at a meeting in September. The Board said at subsequent meetings that they wanted to develop the land for a community center similar to the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson.

The county manager also said it was still undecided if any other county projects would have to be put on hold.

The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund was created by the NC General Assembly in 2017 for school districts in Tier One and Tier Two counties to address critical school building capital needs, and the funding can only be used for new construction, not rehabilitation of older buildings.

Other school districts in the Roanoke-Chowan area have also been grant recipients from this fund. Hertford County Schools were also notified in November of a $15 million award which will go towards constructing a new Ahoskie Elementary School. In 2017, Gates County Schools received $2.5 million from the fund to construct a new wing at Central Middle School.

Recipients of grant money from this fund will not be eligible to receive their annual allotment from the North Carolina Education Lottery for a period of five years.