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It is irresponsible for the Chatham school board to make a decision about school reorganization without considering capital costs

By Mia Munn
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - I am concerned that Chatham County school superintendent Robert Logan is asking the school board to make a decision about school reorganization without considering the capital cost of that decision. On page 2 of the School Organization topic, Mr. Logan says in his introduction, "In sum, the attached proposal would result in a recurring savings of $511,000.00 to the annual current expense budget of the school system."

The slide on page 30 of that presentation says:

Long Range Facility Impact
Bonlee Middle School Renovations
• 4-Language Arts/Social Studies/Mathematics Classrooms
• 1-Science Lab Classroom
• 1-Gym (800 seats)
• Additional parking
• Conversion of K-5 restrooms
*These capital costs can not be included in the CCS operating budget and would therefore have no impact on balancing the operating budget.

While it is true that capital budgets and operating budgets are not interchangeable, the funding comes from the same source, the Chatham County taxpayers by way of the county commissioners.

I am concerned that by not considering the impact of the non-trivial capital costs (with the gym, the cost is easily over $1 million), the board is not making a fully informed decision on the effect of the change on the total funding available for the schools. If the commissioners allocate money for capital projects, that money is not available for the commissioners to allocate to operating expense.

The supply of taxpayer money in Chatham County is inelastic. If the timing of the capital money availability is not identified in the short-term, then the new Bonlee Middle School could be disadvantaged for years to come.

The February 14 agenda also includes the 2010-2011 Capital Outlay Budget for the schools. The capital items above for Bonlee as a middle school are not included in that budget. These capital items are also not included in the 2012-2016 CIP county plan. Without a capital funding stream identified, those needed upgrades may never happen.

I have asked the school board to require a fully loaded cost, including both capital and operating expense, before making such a major decision.

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