School construction may come down to commission

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Whether or not Butler County Schools receives funding to address a multitude of facility problems countywide may ultimately lie in the hands of the county commission.

For the Butler County Board of Education to be able to borrow $25 million for construction needs at all schools, the system would have to generate an additional $1.3 million of local revenue over its current budget, according to Superintendent Mike Looney. Raising the county sales tax from a half-cent - which totaled $951,510 in 2005 for the school system - to a whole cent would meet the funding requirements.

Looney said that decision ultimately lies with the county commission, but he reiterated that each municipality in Butler County would need to take responsibility for providing funds for school construction.

BOE President Billy Jones agreed.

&#8220This is not just a county problem and it's not just a Georgiana problem, a Greenville problem, or a McKenzie problem,” said Jones. &#8220It's all of our problem.”

School administrators, the Board, the county commission, and representatives from Georgiana, McKenzie and Greenville met for approximately two hours on Monday in an effort to address the facility issue plaguing Butler County's schools.

Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams said the decision facing the commission was a &#8220difficult” one but said the commission was &#8220willing to work with everyone” in order to find a solution to the school's facilities problem.

Commissioner Jerry Hartin said following the meeting he was for the sales tax increase. Georgiana High School and Robert L. Austin Elementary - both schools in Hartin's district - are beyond repair, according to Looney. An immediate priority on the board's list is construction of a new $14 million school in Georgiana, consolidating the pair of schools into a single facility. Each school in the county, however, would see a significant amount of repairs and re-construction, said Looney, ranging from $1 million to $4 million.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon also expressed a willingness to help.

&#8220We'd have to actually see finalized costs on how much it was going to be before we could make a commitment,” said McLendon.