Chris Berendt Staff Writer
October 9, 2013
A request by Sampson County Schools for nearly half a million dollars to make needed roof replacements for three schools was approved by the Sampson Board of Commissioners, which decided not to fund a similar request from Clinton City Schools.
At the board’s first special session regarding budget issues, held Sept. 17, managerial staff provided information on requests from the two school systems for funding for school roof needs. The board deferred action on the requests until its regular October meeting, held Monday.
County manager Ed Causey briefed the board, recapping the issues.
In essence, two school roofs in Clinton City Schools and three in Sampson County Schools were leaking and in dire need of replacement, officials at the respective systems said last month. Clyde Locklear, assistant superintendent for finance/facility for Clinton City Schools, and Anthony Vann, executive director of auxiliary services at Sampson County Schools, spoke to the specific requests at last month’s work session.
The county schools submitted a request totaling $452,250, including complete replacement of roofs over gymnasiums at Roseboro Middle, at $141,750; Union Intermediate, at $149,500; and Hobbton High, at $161,000. Vann offered a second, scaled-down option that would tally $249,000, but noted replacement was the best alternative.
“We’re to the point where we really need to strip it down and start from scratch,” Vann noted at the time.
City schools’ request, encompassing roofs for L.C. Kerr and Butler Avenue schools, also included two alternatives — $439,920 for shingles or $544,800 for metal roofs.
The city schools prioritized roofing needs and estimated costs through 2020 and Locklear noted that, top on the priority list, were classroom buildings at L.C. Kerr and Butler Avenue Schools. Built in 1992, the roofs continue to lose shingles and leak. An independent report recommended replacement due to the age and overall condition of each roof.
“I saw the county’s roof and it was leaking,” said Kirby. “The city’s was not. What I’m getting at is, would it create a situation if we granted the county and didn’t grant the city? Is it possible for the city to do some patchwork to get by? The county seems to be in a worse position.”
Causey said unspent funds would stay intact.
According to finance officer David Clack, there is $1,042,917 that can be used to pay for roofs and other needs, taking the undesignated fund balance less the estimated transfers to pay debt service. Added to that $1.04 million figure, the city schools currently has unallocated roof funds totaling $70,000 from 2010-11.
“The good news is we have the money available to do that,” said county manager said. “The bad news is that once we do this, we are limiting the flexibility of the reserve monies that might be available in the future. It is something that hopefully helps us alleviate some pressure from (budgeted capital expenses) for the next two years. At the end of the day, the money you don’t spend is going to remain. If you chose to proceed with the county, there is nothing that says you can’t come back and consider the city’s request.”
Kirby again hearkened back to what he called Commissioner Jefferson Strickland’s “bucket test,” denoting whether a bucket was literally catching dripping water. He said the county schools passed, while the city schools did not.
“We dealt with this one time before,” Kirby said. “What I’m really concerned about is I don’t want to have a situation where we’re dealing with funding simply because we’re giving to one over another. I want to be dealing with true emergencies. As painful as it may be, we ought to give to the one that is in the greater need.”
In December 2011, the board voted to allocate a total of about $650,000 in school capital reserve funds to the county schools for roof repairs at the old Midway High School, as well as to city schools for brick and mortar emergency situations. At that time, no specific project was designated for the city schools funds.
“The city didn’t even use the roofing (funds) in the last situation we have, and we only gave it because the (county received funds for) the Midway roof,” said Kirby. “I went out (to Midway) and it was amazing. The water was pouring in there.”
Clinton City Schools in October 2012 requested $80,000 of the $150,000 be authorized for the replacement of the College Street School facility roof, approved by the board, leaving another $70,000 unspent.
“I don’t want to offend anybody,” said Kirby.
Causey noted that Sampson County Schools does have roughly three times the buildings that Clinton City Schools does.
“If you proceed with the county,” the county manager said, “there is nothing that says we can’t come back if we determine the issue is more significant with the city and address theirs.”
Strickland said it was important that the money from that fund not be depleted unless it was an emergency.
“If these needs are there now and the resources are there now, we should repair them now,” said Strickland. “All I’m saying is we should be mindful.”
Finance officer David Clack also pointed out that the cost of roof replacement would not get any cheaper.
“If ultimately they have to replace it, it’s going to be a more expensive roof six months or a year from now,” said Clack.
Kirby reiterated it was important to address the most pressing needs, “dealing with the issues as opposed to just making sure nobody feels angry at us,” Kirby noted.
As important as it is to consider carefully every capital budget expense, Causey said taking care of some matters before they are subject to deferred maintenance and increased costs should also be examined.
“As we attack the challenges that you five gentlemen have facing you, I would like to see a little pressure coming off of some of these capital needs,” said Causey, noting staff would proceed as directed by the board.
Board chairman Billy Lockamy asked whether anyone from city staff had actually looked at the roofs. Causey said he had not, but was relying on the independent feasibility reports submitted by school officials. The county manager said more research could be done if the board wished. Strickland and Commissioner Jarvis McLamb said they would look at the city schools roofs.
Kirby made a motion to fund the Sampson County Schools’ request and not act on the Clinton City Schools’ request. Commissioner Harry Parker seconded the motion, and the board unanimously approved.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.