$145 Million Onslow School Improvement Plan Goes Back To School Board

A $145 million capital improvement plan to build six new schools in ten years was approved Monday night by Onslow County commissioners, but without a change by the school board to have a larger fund balance.

Commissioners approved the original plan to maintain a fund balance not to exceed 8% of annual expenditures. The school board asked for 16%. School Board Chairman Pam Thomas said that would allow the school board to have 2 months of operational expenses in case of emergencies. The school board will decide if it will accept the commissioners' original plan Friday morning.

Todd Lyman, Onslow County's Public Information Officer, says the commissioners voted to accept the original policy as written and they also discussed possibly using a sales tax to help pay for the plan.

However, since the county does not have the authority to levy sales tax, the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners agreed that they will petition the state for a sales tax to help fund county education initiatives.

The plan calls for construction to begin on a new Dixon Middle School in May 2015. Other schools on the list include Richlands, West Central, and New Southern Elementary Schools. Midwest Middle and an expansion for Northwoods Park Middle School are also said to be completed by 2025.

The Onslow County School's Capital Reserve fund would provide the initial investment of $13 million.

An incremental property tax increase of .02 cents per $100 of property value would begin next year, then another .03 increase in 2019 and a $2.25 increase in 2023.

Pam Thomas, Onslow County Board of Education Chair, said "It's a win-win. They were courageous just in stepping out of the box and doing this. This is the first time that we've had this kind of building plan in place. It's a 10-year plan and although it's going to have some incremental tax increases, they occur at various years so it's not all at one time."