Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools seeks funds from Orange County every year to pay for costly repairs and maintenance. At Thursday’s school board meeting, school officials talked about making difficult choices with finite funds from the county.
“We know we’re pushing back critical needs further and further. You guys remember we had the heat issue at Estes Hills,” said Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese. “We pushed off replacing the boiler 10 years in our plan, and it came back and bit us and we had problems last year at Estes.”
At the meeting, the board approved a capital investment plan that lists major projects, estimated at $15.9 million over the next five years. These costs align with the county’s projected funds for the school district. But the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district may not recieve all the money it wants.
“We’ve had a terrible, terrible last six or seven years,” said School Facilities Director William Mullin. “You’ll remember over the last decade we’ve added three schools, mobile classrooms and additions. We grow and our capital plan is being badly, badly hurt.”
Orange County Commissioners will divide 2015-16 funds between Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in the summer.
Among other projects, in 2015-16 CHCCS officials want a cooling tower replacement, light fixture replacements and classroom upgrades.
CHCCS board members also hope commissioners will put a $125 million bond on the ballot in 2016 to pay for additional expenses. The proposed bond would be the largest in Orange County history and would add an estimated 4.67 cents on the property tax rate.
“We’re making some choices right now in what our priorities are based on the expectation that this is going to happen,” said Board Member Michelle Brownstein on planning for the bond.
The district would like the extra funds to help pay for new buildings and school expansions to meet increases in student enrollment at an estimated cost of $214 million over ten years. The funds would also help pay the estimated $91 million in other maintenance costs over the next ten years.