The Wise County Board of Supervisors met in a Recessed meeting on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors room located in the Wise County courthouse. The following were present:
Honorable Robert E. Robbins, Jr., - Chairman
Honorable J. H. Rivers – Vice-Chairman
Honorable Ronald L. Shortt
Honorable Steve Bates
Honorable Fred Luntsford
Honorable Virginia Meador
Honorable Dana Kilgore
Honorable Robert R. Adkins – members of said Board and
Shannon C. Scott – County Administrator
David L Cox – Financial Administrator
Karen T. Mullins – County Attorney
Annette Underwood – Executive Secretary
The following individuals voiced their opposition to the proposed consolidation of six schools into three (3) schools:
Marlene Bush, Appalachia
Judy Adams, Coeburn
Kyle Fletcher, St. Paul
Hugh O’Donnell, St. Paul
Nita Wilson, Big Stone Gap
Harold Greear, Pound
Blake Whitenack, St. Paul
Jeff Powers, Coeburn
Angela Honeycutt, Andover
Wayne Herndon, Big Stone Gap
Bob Harrison, St. Paul
Sherrie Meade, Coeburn
Richard Phelps, Big Stone Gap
The individuals listed above were opposed to consolidation because of the following:
The proposed consolidation and building of three (3) new schools because:
With their surveys, most citizens are against consolidation
No referendum has been placed before the citizens to allow them to voice whether or not they are for or against consolidation
The cost for building the schools includes “frills”
Consolidation is not what the majority of the people want
Downturn in the economy
Debt will be handed down to the next generation to pay
There were no “true” figures presented on renovation of the schools
Students will go to other schools rather than the new schools
Closing a school hurts the growth of a community
With this large debt, how will the primary and elementary schools be maintained
The County and School Board are not showing good financial responsibility
Cannot afford three (3) new high schools – need alternative plans
Consolidation will bring on a tax increase
The country is in recession and more debt should not be placed upon the people that are out of work nor the elderly
Eddy Giles voiced support for consolidation. New schools would benefit the county and the children.
Dan Fast praised the Board for exercising good leadership in providing the best for our children. Mr. Fast stated that he has attended a consolidated school and the benefits out weighed any negatives from consolidation. To renovate the old schools, would cost lots of money and still have old facilities and the problems associated with old buildings. The economy is ripe for lower construction costs and lower interest rates, which mean our children will have better schools and more up to date technology to prepare them for the future.
There being no further comments, the public expression period was closed.
IN RE: DEBT SERVICE POLICY
A motion was made by J. H. Rivers, seconded by Virginia Meador, to leave the County’s current Debt Service Policy in place.
Aye J. H. Rivers Nay- Dana Kilgore
Virginia Meador Steve Bates
IN RE: VOTER REFERENDUM
Attorney Mullins reported that referendums are set by statute. One must have certain, specific authority to do any type of referendum. School consolidation is not one of those statutorily authorized referendum issues. Bond issue, however, is. There are also some restrictions and requirement with this. If for school purposes, it calls for a resolution of request from the School Board before the Board of Supervisors has the authority to proceed with considering a bond referendum. Once this is done, a question must be sent to the Judge to be certified and then the scheduling process begins. If all requirements are satisfied, it would probably be next summer before a bond referendum could be put in place.
Supervisor Luntsford asked for specific language as to how this money will be spent if the School Board were to provide a resolution of request to the Board.
Attorney Mullins explained other options the Board has for borrowing money for school purposes and not have a bond issue.
There was a lengthy discussion regarding funding for the schools and whether or not a bond referendum is the direction that needs to be taken in the best interest of the School Board and the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Bates stated that the 2007 election of the School Board members spoke for the majority of the people. The vote of the majority of the people was in essence a referendum. They knew the direction of the candidate they voted for and that was for consolidation of the schools.
IN RE: SCHOOL SYSTEM FINANCING
A motion was made by J. H. Rivers, seconded by Dana Kilgore, to commit the sum of $44M for the purpose of constructing three (3) new comparable high school facilities as presented by the Wise County School Board which includes the $9M currently held in reserve and to authorize David Cox to contract with a private financial firm to evaluate the County’s financial condition and report back to the Board on structuring a revised debt service policy.
Supervisor Rivers explained that this motion does not use all the debt service which leaves funds for other projects. Also, these funds will allow the school system to utilize the low construction cost, the low interest rates and to apply any stimulus funding available. The independent financial firm could give a report on the County’s financial condition.
Supervisor Kilgore was in agreement with Mr. Rivers in that the County must make a commitment to move forward. However, she noted that the only decision this Board will make is how much money to commit to build the schools. The decision has been made by the School Board to build three (3) new schools. The opportunity is there for good interest rate and it would be irresponsible of the Board not to take advantage of those low rates. She also agrees with getting an outside firm to get a second opinion on the County’s financial condition.
Supervisor Luntsford stated that he wants what’s best for the children and to be good stewards of the County’s money. He is opposed to the plan for the three (3) schools as presented. He has asked for plans on renovating the schools and has not seen those plans.
Supervisor Shortt voiced his concern that the $44M will not be sufficient to do the three (3) schools. He questioned the use of the $44M since it would not build all the schools as planned. This would not be a fair nor good decision on behalf of the Board.
Chairman Robbins reminded the Board of current needs of the County such as new courtrooms, new 911 center and more parking for the courthouse to mention a few.
Supervisor Rivers noted that the figures given by Mr. Cox were very conservative and he foresees additional money coming into the County within the next five (5) years that will be beneficial to the County’s needs.
There was some discussion on the debt management policy and the fund balance.
Supervisor Kilgore stated that she feels the Board is hiding behind the debt policy and that is the reason she thinks the debt policy should be revised. The debt policy is the reason the children can’t be helped.
Supervisor Rivers stated that he feels that the Board is hiding behind consolidation vs renovation. This motion will help the school system go forward with its plans and is financially responsible and to hire an outside consultant to help the Board with its decision on this issue.
Chairman Robbins noted that if this motion passes, it is opening the County up for a larger debt on down the road and the County cannot do other needed projects.
Supervisor Luntsford asked that the motion not be approved and let the school system know the funds that are available to them and come up with a revised plan to use this money.
Chairman Robbins asked for a vote on the motion on the floor.
Aye- J. H. Rivers Nay- Fred Luntsford
Dana Kilgore Ronnie Shortt
Bob Adkins Virginia Meador
Steve Bates Robby Robbins
A motion was made by Fred Luntsford, seconded by Bob Adkins, to adjourn the meeting. The motion was unanimously approved.
ATTEST: WISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Shannon C. Scott, Clerk Robert E. Robbins, Jr., Chairman
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