Board of Education moves forward with consolidation

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABEGTHTOWN — Bladen County Schools is taking the next step toward consolidation.

At Monday’s regular Board of Education meeting, board members heard from Superintendent Robert Taylor about staff recommendations.

“We’ve been through a considerable amount of work,” he said. “We’re ready to ask for approval to construct a K-8 school in Tar Heel and consolidate Plain View.”

Recently released by the General Assembly are need-based funds for Tier 1 schools, money designated especially for capital outlay projects. Systems can apply for up to $15 million, with a 30 percent local match, and the General Assembly clarified this week that the money is to be used for new construction, not just any capital outlay projects. Bladen County is a Tier 1 county, and Taylor recently affirmed by email that Bladen County Schools would be interested in applying for the money.

“I understand where the $15 million is coming from,” commented board member Roger Carroll, “but do we have any idea how much we will be asking the commissioners for?”

Taylor responded that new construction would cost approximately $17 million, plus possible land acquisition, technology and furniture, contingency, and possible road construction.

“It could be between $22 million and $25 million,” he answered.

When Carroll responded he was under the assumption it would located on the Tar Heel Middle School property, board members and staff talked about the possibility, agreeing that it would lower the cost.

“The high school debt of $2.1 million is reducing each year, with the final payment of $843,000,” Taylor explained when pressed about the request to commissioners. “When you look at that reduction, it frees close to $2 million.”

With the high school debt to be retired soon, that would also free additional money, and Taylor speculated that “with (his) math, by the time we occupy the building, we could be debt free.”

The board voted unanimously to move forward with asking the commissioners for the local match needed for the application.

“We’re looking foward to moving forward,” said chairman Vincent Rozier.

In other business the board:

— Approved the 2017-18 budget, which Finance Director Sharon Penny said reflected considerable reduction due to the unexpected loss of almost 100 students.

— Heard from AYUSA representative Connie Lawrence about the district’s second year of hosting a foreign exchange student.

— Learned from Taylor the General Assembly’s recent decision to limit K-3 class size will necessitate changes to the system, which will be addressed at a later meeting.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal