Rep. Chris Malone sides with Wake County commissioners on school construction

amoody@newsobserver.comJanuary 21, 2014 

State Rep. Chris Malone, right, shakes hands with Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny following a meeting Malone held at Zebulon Town Hall on Jan. 9.

AARON MOODY — amoody@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— State Rep. Chris Malone is sticking with his GOP affiliation concerning the ongoing spat between Wake school leaders and county commissioners over school building construction control.

Malone, a former school board member who now represents District 35 in the N.C. House, says he supports Wake County commissioners’ bid to take over school construction and property management. Currently, the county school board possesses that authority.

Republicans hold the majority on the county board of commissioners, while Democrats are in the majority on the Wake school board.

However, Malone said the reasoning behind his stance is not party-related.

“I know county commissioners are asking for (the authority), but I think a Democrat-majority county commission would like to have it as well,” he said. “And we will have a Democratic county commission some day in the future, I’m sure.”

Commissioners unsuccessfully pushed for the turn of power last summer, but the issue is likely to resurface in the General Assembly this year.

Malone, whose district includes part of eastern Wake County, explained his support of the power transfer after a recent meeting he held at Zebulon Town Hall.

“First of all, the county has taxing authority,” Malone said. “The bonds go through them, they maintain all the liabilities. They should maintain the assets as well.”

He said school system has on more than one occasion purchased, or considered purchasing, property for “way more” than the land was worth. For that reason, he said having a new set of eyes carrying out such tasks is not a bad thing.

“It’s not going to stop any of the schools from being built,” Malone said. “They’re going to be just as fine and well-done schools as we’ve had in the past. The idea that you’re going to have a shack is ridiculous – nobody would do it. We’re going to have quality schools.”

The first-term legislator said the shift would take a function away from the school board, but not deprive the board, school administrators or students.

“This is a matter of handling the job correctly,” he said. “I think, structurally, it makes sense to be on the county staff to handle it.”

School leaders, in arguing that they should retain the authority to build and maintain buildings, say educators are better equipped to determine space needs and auxiliary needs at schools than county officials who must oversee property for a wide variety of uses.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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