PPEA hearing held

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A public hearing was held Jan. 9 to receive public comment regarding an amendment and/or appropriation to the FY 2018-19 budget relating to the Bacon District and Phenix Elementary School PPEA (Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act) project.”

Terry Ramsey

During the hearing, Charlotte Court House Town Council Member Terry Ramsey said he supports staff recommendation.

The recommendation said “the balance of the unused general fund transfers related to the Courthouse Project total approximately $220,000, if (the) Board approves for these funds to be applied to the PPEA School Project a balance of approximately ($2.6 million) will be needed to complete the current PPEA School Project.”

The current project is $3.2 million.

In addition, the recommendation said the Board could appropriate the $2.6 million from General Fund Reserve Fund 10 and the staff could continue paying the monthly bills.

“If at some point in the future, the decision of the Board is to borrow the funds, paying back the General Fund will be permitted,” said the recommendation.

Ramsey provided a table to the Supervisors to show where adequate fund balance was available.

He said in 2011, the county switched from once a year tax collection to twice each year, which provided an additional half a year of collections.

Ramsey said in 2014 after fund balance was starting to decline, “taxes were raised from real estate and personal property … both were raised …”

He said real estate assessment also dropped with the reassessment.

Additionally, he said in 2016 the County started to have over $1 million in surplus each year.

“The county can easily afford to transfer $2.6 million in, so I’d just like to say I support staff recommendation,” said Ramsey.

During the regular January meeting of the Supervisors, a motion passed to appropriate $2.6 million from Fund 10, General Fund Reserve, for the Bacon District and Phenix Elementary School projects.

Red House/Cullen Supervisors Nancy Carwile said her only concern was the fund has been drawn down in the past in order to prevent raising taxes.

“Now my concern has been for the last year or more … that when we decided to keep the three schools, it’s going to be more expensive to run three schools than one … and I want us to be sure that we do not cut things short and cut the budget on the education side in order to pay for the capital expenditure side …” said Carwile.

She said if the School Board comes up with needs, there won’t be a cushion that can be drawn from to balance the budget.

Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said continuing to operate three schools was the will of the citizens.

She said in taking the $2.6 million from the General Fund, it can be decided if money needs to be borrowed.

“We will still leave a very healthy reserve …” Pierantoni said.

She said she had previously spoken against borrowing until plans are made for Bacon District Elementary and the phase two part of the renovations.

She said the PPEA project is being overseen by the School Board.

Pierantoni said she has concerns about possible changes within the project.

Charlotte County Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Leonard said in August at a School Board meeting, “Jamerson Lewis (Construction) presented a plan that took the eight (Phenix Elementary) classrooms and made them into four classrooms and several meeting spaces. The School Board directed Jamerson Lewis to put the eight classrooms back into the design as was originally requested in the scope of the work.”

She said currently the School Board is awaiting the final corrected drawing depicting the eight classrooms.

“The School Board, as well as myself, have been adamant since day one of this project that we need eight classrooms at Phenix. Lack of classroom spaces, not meeting spaces, is what displaces students from their community schools. The Phenix project has the primary purpose of getting students into bricks and mortar classrooms and out of the trailers at the back of the school,” said Leonard.

According to a December proposed plan for the school, the eight rooms at Phenix Elementary will include a flex space, two prekindergarten classrooms, two kindergarten classrooms, two first grade classrooms and a special education classroom.

In addition, she said during phase one of the project at Bacon District Elementary, the school is set to receive a standalone gym including handicap restrooms, a storage closet and office space, according to the release from the school division.

The release said at Phenix Elementary, an eight classroom addition with handicap accessible student restrooms is in the works.

Following the completion of the classroom addition, current mobile units located at Phenix Elementary will be removed and construction will begin on the gymnasium.

Both elementary schools will have identical gyms constructed as a part of the process, the release said.