If the joint meeting between the Union County Board of Commissioners and Board of Commissioners is any indication of what’s to come, the two boards are looking at an amicable relationship.
The board met Monday, Jan. 9, to discuss upcoming issues relating to the school system.
BOE members presented ideas, but not many actions were officially taken.
However, the conversations laid the groundwork for discussions at the commissioners’ Jan. 17 meeting.
Upcoming student realignment
UCPS provided an update to its student realignment plan work, which doesn’t have a timeline. This will be the first time the board has looked at realignment since the last redistricting.
Jerome McKibben, who has conducted multiple demographic forecasts for UCPS in the past, will meet with the school board’s facilities committee Jan. 31 to discuss the scope of work.
In the past, McKibben has evaluated enrollment, demographic updates and projected growth, but committee members will discuss what more he could provide.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan said he knows this is an “off” year for McKibben to conduct these evaluations, but he believes UCPS staff should look at enrollment annually.
District 6 BOE member Kathy Heintel said she hopes the realignment plan will be a seven-to-10-year plan the board can feel comfortable knowing where students will be, as well as will increase transportation efficiencies.
BOE Chair Melissa Merrell said the plan comes at a “perfect’ time, as the ninth-graders who were grandfathered into the last redistricting will graduate this June.
Commissioner Stony Rushing questioned if the board would look into allowing students to attend schools near where their parents worked.
Heintel said they haven’t discussed that option, but could be in a future conversation about policy; however, her biggest concern was ensuring students attended schools near their homes.
Bond projects starting soon
The BOE approved a timeline of bond project construction at its Jan. 5 meeting, with all projects starting their design phases in the next six months.
The first projects, which start this month, will include the new transportation facility and Monroe High School.
UCPS Consultant Joe Delaney explained UCPS already had the blueprints for the transportation facility and land acquisition from the last bond, which moved it up the list.
Contractors are already completing work at Monroe High, so UCPS plans to add the bond work to their work to help streamline the process.
Sun Valley High School work would start in February, but would end the latest of all projects in fall 2019. UCPS also plans to look at renovating the football stadium rather than completely removing it.
Commissioner Richard Helms questioned the order of the specific projects needed at Sun Valley and whether they would be simultaneous.
Heintel said they plan to work with the contractor and architect to see if SVHS’s most pressing needs, such as its cafeteria, could be taken care of first.
Rushing wondered about the mobile classrooms being removed at Porter Ridge Middle. He hopes they’ll get moved over and not eliminated.
Houlihan said he has no problem with it, but it’ll be something figured out during the development process.
Commissioners will vote on the timeline at their Jan. 17 meeting.
Bond cash flow
Union County is responsible for ensuring the $53.6 million of bond projects approved by Union County voters last fall receive the funding to move forward with construction.
Union County commissioners will appropriate $6.2 million from the 2016 referendum to provide funding to begin design and engineering and another other preliminary costs before July 1.
County commissioners will then appropriate the other $47.4 million for construction funding as part of UCPS’ capital request for fiscal year 2018.
The BOE approved a resolution laying out this pay schedule at the Jan. 9 meeting.
County CFO Jeff Yates said the majority of the bond-related action takes place “behind the scenes” and the most likely the total cost of the bond will be around $54 million, which include legal fees and payments to the LGC.
He also said because of the bond’s structure the $53.6 million can only be used for the seven projects on the referendum, but specific dollar amounts are not tied to specific projects. If the projected $12-million transportation facility costs only $10 million, the extra $2 million can only go toward the six other projects or to do more on the facility.
Commissioners will vote on the bond pay schedule resolution at their Jan. 17 meeting.
Budget preparation calendar
The BOE also shares its budget calendar for the next fiscal year.
UCPS plans to starts working on gathering data for the budget in February and the superintendent will propose his budget on April 4.
The BOE wants to have a joint meeting with commissioners in early April and plan to have the budget proposal completed by May 1.
Commissioner Frank Aikmus said he was glad that the boards will have a joint meeting about the budget and the budget will get to commissioners sooner than past years.
Vice Chair Gary Sides said the budget will include more information about charter school pass-through payments.
Commissioners hope district leaders will build better relationships with charter schools.
Helms said he considered this meeting to be a reflection of the best relationship the two boards have had in many years.