ELIZABETHTOWN — For the first time since the quarter-cent sales tax referendum was introduced, voters will know ahead of time how the money will be spent if passed.
Monday night, at the behest of the county commissioners, the Bladen County Board of Education approved a plan detailing how an additional $2.5 million that would be generated from a sales tax would be used by the school system. The commissioners recently approved adding the measure to the ballot for the sixth time, and the school board formed a Facilities Committee to identify the priorities.
“One of the things we wanted to do was identify top priorities, and what came out on top was school safety,” Superintendent Robert Taylor told the board. “Most schools are not in secure format, with the two high schools being the most secure … we discussed how to secure the buildings from an entry standpoint, additional fencing, that kind of thing.”
The necessary upgrades would cost the district approximately $200,000.
Other priorities, in order, include:
• Multipurpose buildings at Bladenboro Primary, Bladen Lakes Primary and Elizabethtown Primary. The additions are expected to cost approximately $2 million.
• Renovations to the East Arcadia multipurpose facility, estimated at $20,000 to $40,000.
• Air conditioning in the gyms of Tar Heel Middle, Clarkton School of Discovery and Bladenboro Middle. The work would run $150,000 to $200,000.
• Athletics field houses at East Bladen and West Bladen, which would cost roughly $2 million.
Altogether, the projects would cost $4.4 million, and anything above the expected $2.5 million generated from the sales tax would come from capital outlay funds. Taylor told the board he recommended using 100 percent of the funding the first five years to pay for the projects.
In the next five years, sales tax money would be used to fund projects outlined on a statutory report submitted to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Board members passed a motion “declaring the board’s intent to move forward with a proposal to upgrade” the district’s facilities.
In other business, the board:
• Learned the district scored an overall 49 percent proficient across all areas on the state accountability test and will not be considered low performing.
• Heard from Finance Officer Sharon Penny that $461,000 out of the fund balance has been appropriated for the school year budget. Penny said she didn’t anticipate the district would use the total amount but encouraged budgeting “for the worst case scenario.”
• Approved a $71,000 purchase of Chromebooks to extend the 1:1 device program to fifth grade students. Technology Director Jason Atkinson told the board the state is, within two years, converting assessments to online administrations, so all students in third grade and above will need devices. The purchase is possible through a one-time special state allotment.
• Approved a three-year annual payment of $68,260 for the lease of Dell laptops to replace the Chromebooks currently used by certified staff. Atkinson told the board employees need access to document reading and writing programs. Capital outlay funds will be used for the payments.
• Approved a Title I plan for the elementary and middle schools that will use the $1.9 million in federal funding to pay percentages of 12 teacher salaries, instructional coaches, one technology coordinator,and five pre-K teachers, as well as software programs for intervention.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.