UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- The Union County Board of Education voted to reject a $3 million offer that would have temporarily addressed school overcrowding.
During Tuesday night’s work session, board attorney Richard Schwartz explained that upon further probing, they discovered the $3 million came with “strings attached.”
“We got word late this afternoon from the county attorney that there are strings attached, and that the $3 million expected will reduce the jury agreement by $3 million, offsetting other needs that were included and presented to the jury,” he said.
For years, the county and school board have been at odds over school funding. The disagreement led to a long and contentious battle in court, and a $91 million jury judgment awarded to the district. The county has appealed that decision.
Board President Richard Yercheck said he was disappointed by the “political gamesmanship” of the unexpected offer, and apologized to the crowd.
“When somebody says $3 million, with no strings attached, I went on record saying I suspect we are going to take that money, because I take people at their word. I am personally not willing to dishonor the jurors and the work that they did,” he said.
An estimated 6,000 students will be affected if the district redraws boundary lines.
Chip Leiner of Wesley Chapel has two children who would be redistricted to another school next year.
“I understand their logic, and there are ‘strings attached’, it still seems to me they are only focusing on the redistricting, maybe some tweaking to that, and that’s not a satisfactory option,” he said.
He believes the purchase of 49 mobile classrooms is still the best solution and the least disruptive to families and students.
“All the parents I talked to are in favor of the mobile classrooms, for a short-term solution. Let’s utilize that and go forward with a longer-term plan to build schools,” he said.
The board asked Superintendant Mary Ellis and her team to research existing options including transportation needs if students were grandfathered in next year. They’ve also been asked to focus on a multi-year plan of building new schools and add-on to existing ones.