School board gets look at bond spending

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON - It took nine years, but the county school system has spent nearly all of the $64 million in construction money from a state bond issue.
The school board on Monday was given a district-by-district breakdown of how the money was spent.
There was no mention Monday of a buyout of Superintendent Colin Armstrong's contract after the board adjourned from a 90-minute closed session. Armstrong has told the board that an early exit would make for a smoother transition for Johnny Hunt, who will replace him.
The $64 million was part of a $2.75 billion bond issue that North Carolina voters approved in 1996.
&#8220I think you as a board did a good job balancing out the money,” said Assistant Superintendent Henry Byrd. &#8220If you go back to 1997, we had a number of areas that we needed to address and the board has tried to address those areas.”
The breakdown shows that $13.8 million - 14 percent of total bond money - was spent in District 2, which includes schools in the Rowland and Fairmont areas. The second largest amount, $13.3 million, went to District 6 in St. Pauls and Red Springs.
District 4 received $12 million, followed by District 8 with $11. 9 million; District 3, $9.9 million; District 5, $4.9 million; District 1, $4.6 million; and District 7, $3.7 million.
The board used needs assessments compiled by the state and local officials to determine how the money was spent. The number of students per district was also considered.
The new media center at W.H. Knuckles and the seven-classroom building at Green Grove should be ready by August 2007. A new $1.5 million cafeteria for Union Chapel Elementary is in the works.
&#8220I think each district was treated fairly,” board Chairman Mike Smith said.
State officials in 1996 identified $260 million in needs throughout the county school system. Armstrong said he hopes the state will call for another bond referendum. If that happens, Robeson's share is expected to be about $74 million.
Armstrong and Byrd agreed that numerous needs remain.
&#8220Right now we are not embarrassed to take anybody to our schools,” Byrd said. &#8220However, in the next couple of years there will be a tremendous amount of needs and they are not going to diminish.”
- During the public comment period, Maxton Mayor Lillie McKoy said schools in the her community, particularly Townsend Middle School, are being overlooked. McKoy said nails were protruding from the gym floor before it was replaced last year. The budget calls for a $1.5 million gym at Townsend Middle, something McKoy said is long overdue.
&#8220When I think about the complex that has been constructed at St. Pauls (High), it brings tears to my eyes to know that all children are not being treated equally,” she said. &#8220The Maxton community is always taken for granted and is always considered the forgotten end of Robeson County.”
In other business, the board:
- Heard a brief presentation about a proposed alternative high school for freshmen and rising freshmen who are considered at-risk. A site hasn't been picked nor has it been determined how much it would cost and where the money would come from. Armstrong said the board would be presented with a detailed report later.
- Voted unanimously to offer S. Preston Douglas & Associates a one-year contract extension. The Lumberton accounting firm handles the system's audit.

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