DOBSON — County commissioners heard the multi-million-dollar budget requests of all three of the county’s public schools systems at a budget work session Thursday evening.
Included in Mount Airy Superintendent Dr. Greg Little’s final budget request to the Surry County Board of Commissioners as he prepares to move to a district in South Carolina, were requests for $1,145,000 to fund special capital projects.
Last year all three of the county’s school districts had facilities studies completed by an industry expert. Those studies called for a combined $173 million in capital projects throughout the larger county system, the Elkin district and the Mount Airy City Schools.
Little said his district has been “knocking out” as many of the needs as it can with available funds, but he asked commissioners for some help in taking care of some of those needs.
The district asked commissioners for $110,000 to convert its facilities to use natural gas rather than oil for heating. Little said that request would allow the district to do away with purchasing heating oil, would eliminate the need for Environmental Protection Agency reporting requirements and lessen future maintenance expenditures. In the end, the move would result in cost-savings.
Other projects to overhaul heating and air conditioning mechanisms at Mount Airy Middle School and B.H. Tharrington Primary School would equate to about $580,000 in expenditures if approved by commissioners, according to the figures Little provided the board.
Little said the tennis courts at Mount Airy Middle and the high school are in a state of disrepair, as he showed commissioners pictures of large cracks and holes in the surfaces. The ones at the high school must be replaced and the middle school courts need to be resurfaced. The district asked the county to allocate $225,000 toward the project.
Since the courts are available for use by the general public, Little told commissioners the school district had also asked the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners for $50,000 toward the project. That request was approved by the city board.
The home bleachers at Mount Airy’s football field are failing safety inspections, according to Little. The district is requesting $200,000 to replace the bleachers.
School funding for items other than the large capital projects is based on the school district’s enrollment. The city district’s average daily membership (ADM) is 1,611 students.
The city district receives $1,090 per student as “current expenses” from the county to provide services, a figure which equates to $1,755,990. The district is requesting an increase to $1,175 per student, which would be a $136,935 increase in funding.
Capital outlay dollars, including monies earmarked for technology, security and general capital maintenance, is also based on a per pupil formula. The schools are requesting an increase from $110 per student to $150 per student, with $100 earmarked for general capital, $40 for technology and $10 for security needs. The increase would equate to a little more than $64,000.
For about the past year, school officials have been looking toward a county-owned property to house the district’s central office.
Last year, county commissioners opted not to accept an offer for its building located at 351 Riverside Drive, formerly known as the Pike Building. Commissioners hoped the school district might be able to put the building to use in replacing a central office which, according to school officials, no longer meets the needs of the district.
After county officials spoke to school officials, the school district began moving forward with a study to discern the feasibility of moving operations from the Rawley Avenue address to the Pike Building.
Little said some rough estimates were now available.
The roof on the structure has met the end of its life cycle, according to Little. A new roof would be a necessity and would cost between $160,000 and $190,000. There would be some additional costs associated with repairing some water damage which resulted from the leaky roof.
Work would also have to be completed to alter the inside of the building to meet the needs of the district, according to Little’s presentation. Remodelling could cost between $50 and $65 per square foot on the 22,000-square-foot building.
However, Little also said some numbers associated with remodelling the building could be deceiving.
“It’s not a $1.5 million project,” remarked Little.
The superintendent explained some areas would require a great deal of remodelling. Some, such as storage areas located in the back of the building, would require little to no effort in preparing them for use by the district.
He did not put an exact figure on what the move will cost. However, he noted costs will be offset by the sale of the Rawley Avenue property currently being used.
Little said the time has definitely come to move the central office operations.
“We’ve outgrown our current building,” explained Little. “This would bring all services under one roof. We would also have a place to provide important staff development.”
“We would look at it as a community learning center. Other organizations could also use it.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.