Budgeters send $32M bond issue

County budgeters are not calling for a tax increase as they send the proposed $32.2 million bond issue, aimed at funding the planned Phase I school building program, upstairs to the full Lincoln County Commission.

Their plan, approved in a 7 to 1 vote Tuesday evening, calls for diverting 19 of the 26 cents on the county’s property tax rate currently dedicated to capital projects for education to debt service, at least until the cost of the county’s debt service significantly decreases.

Dr. Bill Heath, director of Lincoln County Schools, met with budgeters Tuesday, one night after meeting with the Lincoln County Board of Education for its regular session and a subsequent work session.

“We’re not asking for a property tax increase,” he said, reviewing with officials how plans came together for the Phase I school building program, part of the system’s overall five-year plan. Heath is also expected to be on hand for the County Commission when it meets next Tuesday, Oct. 16, to consider action on the proposed bond issue.

According to cost projections presented to the County Budget Committee in September, the new elementary school proposed at Blanche will cost an estimated $17.6 million, while an addition at Lincoln County High School will cost an estimated $5.7 million. Coupled with that is an additional $8.6 million that would go to city schools in accordance with state law.

Regarding the high school addition, Heath said, “We’re not doing a wing to make room for kids – we’re making a wing for science and technology upgrades.”

Still, the plan does call for ninth graders to attend LCHS as opposed to Ninth Grade Academy beginning next fall.

Garth Garris, LCHS principal, said in the school board work session Monday evening that letters have been given to parents regarding the transition of the system’s eighth graders to LCHS next year. After the Thanksgiving holidays next month, plans call for parent meetings, registration and scheduling to get underway.

“We’d like to have students registered by the end of January,” Garris said.

Eighth graders will be getting a tour of LCHS this spring, and an open house and orientation will be held before the start of school next year. Officials are also working on scheduling, determining the number of classrooms and teachers needed, as well as parking needs. Approximately 300 more students will need to get through the lunch line, which will likely call for one more cafeteria worker.

The school board will also soon begin to look at options for NGA – “A committee will start working on all the options. We will see what our community thinks,” said Heath, suggesting possibly relocating Lincoln County Board of Education offices to NGA.