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County divided over middle schools

By CALVIN PYNN

calvin@southwesttimes.com

 

The Pulaski County Administration building was filled to capacity Monday night as citizens from all over the county arrived to voice concerns over the future of Pulaski and Dublin middle schools.

Currently, the county is facing a rigorous decision between renovating both middle schools or consolidating them into one new building. The current cost of building a new school would be roughly $54.4 million, not including land acquisition costs.

To garner citizen input on the decision, Pulaski County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to hear the public’s opinion on the impending decision.

As citizens from different areas came up one by one to speak, they expressed their passionate beliefs on what should be done. Opinions across the county, however, appeared to be split evenly.

Some protested that the ultimate priority is for the county to have quality learning facilities. According to Morgan Welker, who lives in the town of Pulaski, the need to make a decision about the school goes beyond fiscal concerns.

“Whatever happens has to be done in the best interest of the students and the future of the county,” said Welker.

Others, however, felt that such renovations would not be worth the hefty 29 percent tax increase that the county would need to adopt in order to afford the renovation costs.

According to Lisa Friend of Newbern the tax increase would be particularly damaging to the long-time property owners in the county.

“I want you guys to keep in mind that these older people just can’t afford this,” said Friend. “Some of us went to school here, we got good jobs, but the piggy bank is empty.”

The current county real estate tax is 59 cents per $100 of assessed value, which according to the citizens, has helped attract people to join the county’s population. Another concern brought up was the potential decrease in population that could happen if the tax rate were increased.

Debbie Ring of Ingles felt that the ultimate success of the county lies in its people.

“It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” said Ring.

Speaking for the Pulaski County School Board, Superintendent Tom Brewster said moving forward on either project is solely dependent on the necessary funds.

“We have to rely on money in an operating budget,” said Brewster. “We have to rely on money that is used as a result of efficiency.”

Chairman Joe Sheffey also stated that the deciding factor in this situation is availability of funding to move forward on the project, and that the biggest problem currently is funding from the state. Although the issue was not finally resolved Monday night, Sheffey stated that the Board will hold more meetings with the public until a decision is reached.

Still, another issue brought up by some citizens was that time is running out, and a decision will need to be made soon. According to county resident Angie Jarrells, this is of the utmost priority.

“It’s not possible to please everybody, but it would be irresponsible to not do anything to renovate these schools,” said Jarrells. “I really urge you all to man up, pull the trigger and get something done.”

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