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March 23, 2023 12:50 pm

Board of education supports sales tax resolution

GOLDSBORO — At its Oct. 17 meeting, the Wayne County Board of Education held a special called meeting. The first key item of business was to discuss the Wayne County Board of Commissioners’ resolution to place a 1/4 of a cent local option sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Superintendent Dr. David Lewis shared that the BOC was seeking for the board of education to approve a motion of support for the resolution.

As part of the discussion, Dr. Lewis provided a copy of the priority project list adopted by the Board of Education in September. Lewis shared that the priority list was originally developed using an estimate of $30 million, based on funding projected to be received with the previous ¼ cent sales tax referendum effort which failed in 2020.

Because funding from the upcoming referendum is expected to be distributed across multiple county departments and areas if passed by voters, the sales tax funding levels for WCPS is likely to be less than anticipated. As such, board member Craig Foucht expressed that he felt the board’s priority list should reflect the board’s priorities regardless of available funding streams.

Lewis agreed, further noting the priority list essentially sets standards that the district can work towards to address campus safety, learning environment, campus revitalization efforts and athletic facilities through the sales tax.

The motion to support the resolution passed 4-1 with board members Chair Don Christopher West, Foucht, Wade Leatham and J. Tommy Sanders III voting in favor and Len Henderson voting against. Vice-chair Patricia Burden and board member Jennifer Strickland were unable to attend the meeting.

Lewis shared that the Facilities Committee recently met with representatives from Davis Kane Architects, PA, about the upcoming Rosewood Middle project. While there were many areas of discussion, including numbers of classrooms needed, types of labs that are needed, etc., two key questions arose which the Facilities Committee felt the board as a whole should address in order to help drive the design.

Essentially, the board needs to determine what grade configuration it wants to have and how many students the school will serve once the project is completed. Lewis noted that if the board chooses to make the school a 5-8 configuration to house an estimated 525 students, the core areas such as the cafeteria and media center could be designed and built for a capacity of 600 hundred students to allow for any growth to occur.

This design would allow both Rosewood Middle and High to increase student enrollment and more efficiently utilize available student space. By removing the fifth-grade level from Rosewood Elementary, Lewis said that boundary lines could be adjusted at Rosewood Elementary to further ease overcrowding at Northwest Elementary, depending on the need after the opening of the new Fremont Elementary School.

West suggested that the board wait until all members could be present to make decisions regarding two design questions. Other board members present were in agreement.

As part of the discussion, West also reminded members that the board has $20 million to complete the Rosewood Middle project and cautioned that the board may not have available funding to increase grade configurations at the school.

Foucht expressed that he is a proponent of looking at population realignment as a way to keep schools fully populated. He acknowledged that realignment is not a popular topic, especially for families who purchased a home in an area to send their child to a specific school, but believes there are opportunities to look at how lines can be drawn or adjusted for new neighborhood plats that are being built along boundary lines.

Foucht also suggested that at some point the board may need to discuss consolidation of schools to address aging facilities as part of future planning for new construction, renovations or expansion projects. He acknowledged that school consolidation is also an unpopular topic, but believes it could potentially help increase the number of positions like assistant principals at a school and/or reduce the number of any shared positions that sometimes occur between schools.

At the direction of the board, Lewis stated he will add an agenda item on the Nov. 7 agenda for the full board to weigh in on the items for Davis Kane.

After no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned.

— From the Wayne County Board of Education website