Wake school leaders defend use of new school designs

khui@newsobserver.comJanuary 21, 2014 

— Wake County school leaders on Wednesday touted how they’re saving money building schools, amid questions from county commissioners about how taxpayer money is being spent.

School administrators pointed to how they scaled back the cost of the 16 new schools that will be built from the $810 million school construction bond issue approved by voters in October. It’s a response to commissioners who have said they want proof that schools are being built in the most cost-effective way possible before they turn over money financed by the bonds.

“The county commissioners and the school board want the same thing,” said school board member Kevin Hill. “We both want to save taxpayers money.”

The Republican-led commissioners have been feuding with the school board since Democrats retook that panel’s majority in 2011. The two sides temporarily put aside their differences to get the school bonds passed. But once that took place, the fighting resumed.

The latest skirmish emerged last week after commissioners rejected giving $3 million to design four new schools. Commissioners cited how the school system wants to use new school designs instead of reusing past designs.

“We seem to be paying too much for designs in my opinion,” Commissioner Paul Coble said at a previous meeting.

Hill, the chairman of the school board’s facilities committee, said he invited commissioners to attend Wednesday’s meeting to hear about the school district’s use of design prototypes and why new designs were sought.

Semantics or substantive

No commissioners were present. Hill said Coble and Commissioner Betty Lou Ward told him they had scheduling conflicts.

“Part of the question is are we dealing with semantics?” asked school board member Bill Fletcher. “Or are we dealing with substantive concerns about saving the taxpayers money?”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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