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6/20/19 Goodbye lottery funding, hello bond

Goodbye lottery funding, hello bond
ABSS $150 million bond costs begin to roll in
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 6/20/19    
Reprinted with permission.
      
The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education is waving goodbye to lottery funding.

Since 2012, the N.C. Education Lottery has generated around $1.5 million in school construction funds for ABSS annually. About $450,000 of that goes to paying off debt for the Career and Technical Education Center, which won’t be paid off until 2028 at the earliest.

Now, the county is asking for $1 million on top of that.

According to a Memorandum of Understanding the Board of Education approved Tuesday, June 18, ABSS will pull $1.4 million from lottery funding each year to help pay off debt from the $150 million bond. The cost may go down as the debt is paid.

However, Superintendent Bruce Benson added that any lottery money in excess of $1.4 million will be placed in a “capital reserve fund” to be used for emergencies.

So how is ABSS going to pay for summer projects?

On Monday, the county commissioners approved a seven-year, pay-as-you-go plan that promises ABSS will receive $3.3 million annually for capital improvement. It’s the first time in the history of the two boards that a consistent amount has been placed on the table. From 2007 to 2017, ABSS capital funding oscillated between $750,000 and zero.

Board member Steve Van Pelt said the seven-year plan is one of “the best examples of teamwork” he’s seen in the county in many years.

“It’s a good comprehensive plan, in my opinion, and I urge citizens to look at this and read it because it solves a lot of our problems,” Van Pelt said. “At the same time, it alleviates a lot of [anxiety] that various boards have had.”

But Patsy Simpson emphasized that they’ll no longer have lottery funding to use on schools not included in the bond.

“I just want to make it clear to public — because I bet you that’s the No. 1 question that comes up for board members is, What do you do with the lottery funds? — so I just want to make it very clear that we’re obligated, now, for at least $1.4 million, which is probably what we got last year, so the majority of the taxpayers’ lottery money is being used to fund the bonds or the debt service on those bonds,” she said.

Architects


Board members also unanimously approved four architectural firms to draw up plans for the bond projects. With permission to move forward, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Todd Thorpe plans to bring contracts to the board for approval as soon as he can.

Moseley Architects:


Though the school system conducted a rigorous interview process, whittling 24 applicants down to four, it’s no shock that Moseley was chosen to build the new high school.

The board hired the firm to conduct a facilities study that would produce cost estimates for the bond work — including the new high school — in March 2017. They presented their findings in January 2018 and delivered a second, more detailed presentation the next month.

On Tuesday, Thorpe told board members Moseley wants $3.1 million to design the school, to which Pam Thompson said something along the lines of, “I think I’m going to throw up.”

But the cost has been accounted for.

Since 2018, the firm has estimated the new high school will cost $70 million, including design and land acquisition. Thorpe said they stand by that estimate.

Pinnacle Architecture:


Pinnacle’s success with designing the new Elon Elementary School earned it the opportunity to work on renovations and additions at Southern, Eastern and Western Alamance high schools.

Design costs for Southern come in at $1.4 million. ForEastern,it’s$840,000, and for Western it’s $760,000.

Morris-Berg Architects:
Chosen for their “expertise in renovation projects,” this firm will work on South Mebane Elementary School, and Graham and Cummings high schools. South Mebane will cost $585,000 to design. The high schools will cost a combined $1.3 million.

Sud Associates:
The final two projects — Pleasant Grove Elementary School and Williams High School — involve a lot more engineering work than architectural work, which is why Sud Associates was chosen. Design costs for Pleasant Grove are estimated at $480,700. Williams comes in at $365,900.