"Schools predict budget slashes"

The title of this post was Tuesday's Chapel Hill News headline. The News' quote from School Board member Lisa Stuckey speaks volumes:

"I think we're caught in a situation where our district continues to grow, the state continues to implement pay raises which are badly needed by teachers and other employees," said school board member Lisa Stuckey, who is serving on that committee.

"And it would be quite ironic if in meeting the demands of growth and in working to bring staff wages to appropriate levels we would then have to cut staff positions," she added. "And I see that as quite likely this year."

Read the whole story for more details. Or read the fine column recently published by Mark Peters.

There was also a column in Wednesday's paper by schools superintendent Neil Pedersen. I could not find a link to it online.

One point that stood out for me in Pedersen's column was his discussion of the costs of opening Carrboro High School and building elementary school #10. These many millions in capital costs are a cost of growth that have not been carefully analyzed in our land use planning processes. The current schools impact fee covers only a small fraction of the per student cost of new facilities.

There is much discussion locally contending that growth will make the area more affordable but we see little evidence to that effect. We talk a lot about commercial growth but wind up zoning for and approving mostly residential. Given that school costs are 50% of the county budget, is it any wonder county taxes have been going up?

The commissioners hold out hope for the land transfer tax to provide more revenues to the county in the future but, meanwhile, there are tough choices to be made.

Do OP readers think the commissioners should be so intent on holding the tax increase down this year and next? If so, are you comfortable with significant staff and program cuts for the school systems?

And, there are broader questions: Should current residents pay the cost for new schools to accommodate those moving to the area? Are the high standards so many hold for the CHCCS economically and, therefore, politically sustainable into the future?

And, of course, there are those who are not being best-served by the system currently. How will the budgetary axe fall on them?

Issues: 

Total votes: 320

Comments

Good questions Dan.

We ran Neil's essay as well this week.
It's at
www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2007/05/16/school-budget-crunch-is-serious/...

You may also want to read Moses Carey's essay on the transfer tax
www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2007/05/16/what-is-a-land-transfer-tax-and-...

I think we should treat this school budget situation as a critical point of feedback. Same with the OWASA rate increases. The local governing bodies have given the school board and OWASA the right to slow/stop growth through their zoning reviews and through SAPFO. But I've heard officials from both groups say that it's not their job to regulate growth. If they aren't going to speak up and let the elected officials know that there are serious problems meeting the infrastructure needs of a burgeoning population, then whose job is it?

If the school board would have said that funding two new schools within a few years of one another would impose significant budget constraints, would anyone have listened? If the OWASA board would have said (loud enough for someone to hear), we don't have enough water or sewage treatment capacity to support all this new development without running short between 2015 and 2030, what would have happened? What are the formal communication channels between the two largest suppliers of infrastructure and the policy makers? Systems do not operate smoothly in the absence of feedback.

BTW Dan--I believe that schooling consumes closer to 60% of the county budget and that it is kept that low due to an intentional policy of the BOCC. You asked "Do OP readers think the commissioners should be so intent on holding the tax increase down this year and next? If so, are you comfortable with significant staff and program cuts for the school systems?" My answer is yes, I believe the commissioners should hold the tax increase down. It will be hard and children won't get everything their parents believe they deserve. But we have other infrastructure needs that have been ignored for too long. And if their parents can't afford to live here, it won't matter how many school services are cut.

I believe that schooling consumes closer to 60% of the county budget and that it is kept that low due to an intentional policy of the BOCC.

Please substantiate this. Your figure is significantly higher than figures that I recall being stated at BOCC meetings.

The state-mandated teacher salary and benefit increases have been well known for several years. This amounts to bad planning on the part of the county. The county should not have tried to build so much all at once. Close to $100M in debt in about two years, most done without a bond to communicate the effect of debt to the citizens? The $25M county campus was done in complete secrecy and was suddenly sprung on the community. I followed and publicly commented on the debt capacity, mostly worried that it would cause a breach in SAPFO, but it turns out that that was the least of our concerns.

The commissioners never said that the cost of these projects was going to be funding shortfalls equivalent to laying off 90 teachers (equivalent to 6 per school) per year in CHCCS for the next year or two or three.

Why wasn't this communicated? The answer is obvious - citizens would have directed commissioners to take a more staged approach to taking on debt.

The district does better than many but still has many kids fall through the cracks. High school graduation requirements are getting tougher and more kids are at risk to drop out. I could go on, but not right now.

I completely disagree with Terri's statement that the cuts listed at http://www.chccs.k12.nc.us/Budget/BudgetAlert5_07.pdf are fluff. These cuts are a travesty and will significantly affect academic achievement.

There are two other issues here. One is that the county is being overly prudent budgeting for the lottery revenue, which is artificially making the debt ceiling worse. If this were budgeted properly, then this would free up $2M.

There may also be some relief on the Medicaid front. The NC house budget has $100M in Medicaid relief. If done population-wise, then we may get $1.3M, perhaps more if done relative to senior population.

Growth is certainly an issue. The impact fees are too low and I see the case for the transfer fees as part of the growth-coping equation. I am not sure how realistic it is to stop growth, but if we did not have the growth that forced us to build schools or if that growth paid for itself, then we would not be in the position we are in now.

The current solution of slashing the districts is the wrong solution.

M

With all due respect Mark, I never said the school budget cuts were fluff. In fact, in another thread I listed cuts of science teachers, counselors, and after school programs.

Terri,

Perhaps the phrasing in "It will be hard..." that you used reads differently than you intended, because it certainly seems to be phrased as if the cuts were hitting line items that you believe won't affect academic achievement.

Thanks for your clarification on this matter and I look forward to understanding the basis of the stated percentage.

M

The commissioners had to know the districts would be faced with increased financial demands. SAPFO predicts when new school are anticipated and salary increases for teachers and staff are to be expected.

I am fortunate enough not to fear tax increases to fund the schools in OC. I hope my situation stays that way. Evenso, my salary is not keeping up with inflation. Nor am I comfortable with the seemingly perpetual tax increases. I acknowledge the need for buildings and staff other than schools and teachers. But where is the balance? Where was it in the past when the school funding increased while county services suffered? Why should it be expected to right past wrongs in one budget cycle?

Mark P,

The current cap on school funding as part of the county budget is 48%. Then add in the extras paid for by the county, such as school nurses and school resource officers, along with debt forgiveness, school construction, and other financial assistance outside of the formal budget, and the total amount of school-related funded surely must exceed 50%. Pure speculation on my part though.

Ok, first of all, the local school systems do NOT have to give local paid teachers the same increases as the state does. It is NOT legally mandated. It may not be politically easy to decouple the two, but it is NOT mandated.

As far as Medicaid relief, the House passed budget divides the $100 million in three pots, one, $50 million, based on population, the other two on % of population in Medicaid. Orange County has the LOWEST % of population on Medicaid in the State, 9.1%. It will this get the smallest amount per capita of any county in the State.

While serving on the OWASA Board for 6 1/2 years, I came to understand why it is not the role of OWASA to implement policies designed to curb growth. A couple of reasons:

1) The utility works best when focusing on meeting the needs of the community as expressed by the policies of the elected officials.
2) It would be a double-edged sword if OWASA was allowed to circumvent the elected official's policies. Pro-growth policies would also be fair game.

Two other points:

1) Terri's statement that "we don't have enough water or sewage treatment capacity to support all this new development without running short between 2015 and 2030" is totally inaccurate. In fact, with the conservation measures already identified and general policies already discussed as well as the building of new wastewater capacity, we should have no problem as long as future OWASA Boards & staff continue their current responsible policies.
2) The ability of OWASA to meet our water needs depends upon the amount of risk we are willing to carry as a community. This is a somewhat subjective decision and a policy decision that is totally within the purview of our elected officials. To put it another way, emergency water measures are set to kick in at a certain reservoir level. This reservoir level represents the amount of risk we are willing to take. If we decide as a community that we would like to take less risk, then there is less water available for future needs. Within this concept lies the key to managing future growth and water needs.

On taxes;

The difficulty in meeting our local needs should spur a tax revolt in which local governments refuse to raise local taxes and unify in opposition to the corporate-military state which sucks money away from our local needs for the aggrandizement of a few and the murder of many.

Terri's statement that “we don't have enough water or sewage treatment capacity to support all this new development without running short between 2015 and 2030″ is totally inaccurate.

Leaving out that middle phrase certainly does change the statement, doesn't it Mark? "If the OWASA board would have said (loud enough for someone to hear), we don't have enough water or sewage treatment capacity to support all this new development without running short between 2015 and 2030, what would have happened?"

BTW, that's what Mac Clarke stated to the Carrboro BOA on Tuesday night. I verified that with one of the members earlier today just to make sure she heard the same thing. And I heard that same warning several times during my short tenure on the OWASA board. Of course, it has always been couched in terms of 'with the conservation measures already identified and general policies already discussed as well as the building of new wastewater capacity, we should have no problem."

I'd add two other caveats: "if" the growth projections are accurate and "if" we don't experience major droughts more than every 5 years. Of course, more frequent droughts are one of the predictions associated with climate change and as for population forecasts 10-20 years into the future.....

Could someone please explain what a "local paid teacher" is per Gerry's post above? My husband teaches in Durham and because we live in the part of Chapel Hill that's in Durham County my kids went to school there. The question of "local paid teachers" has not been the focus of the school budget debates I've followed in Durham.
Linda

Linda,

Schools are funded through state, federal, and local taxes. This year funding for CHCCS broke down like this:

CHCCS:
State--$28,749,331
Federal--$509,251
Local--$13,558,972
Source

Using their local funds, districts are able to supplement school personnel salaries. In 2005-2006, CHCCS supplemented some teachers salaries by an average of $6,080 annually. The average supplement for principals was $22,136 and for the superintendent it was $42,357. Source

If I understand Gerry correctly, he is saying that the state-dictated salary increase to the salary schedule applies only to base salary, not base plus supplement. There may also be some positions that are funded in total from state/federal funds and the district is not required to award to pay raise to those positions.

Durham also pays a supplement--supplements are the carrot districts use to attract good teachers away from each other.

So our federal funding share is equal to the cost of 5 Tomahawk missiles.

Thanks for clarifying. I completely misunderstood and thought the reference was to positions funded totally with local funds. I've always heard the local supplement expressed as a percent: and if I'm reading the teeny print correctly, Durham pays a 12.5 to 14.5 percent supplement and CHCCS a 12-25 percent supplement according to experience. Most districts also give a salary increase for National Board certified teachers, not sure where that fits in.

And just because I can't let an opportunity pass to give a shout out to the best teacher I have ever encountered, she drives from Chapel Hill to inner city Durham to teach at a magnet school there because that's where she can have the most impact. She was my son's third grade teacher in a classroom where he was one of three (or was it two?) white boys and one of the few not on free and reduced lunch and I wouldn't trade that year for anything.

Which isn't to say that money isn't important to attract teachers, just that it isn't the only thing. And that what makes a good school, what attracts good teachers, and which school and teacher are the best for a particular child, are very complicated matters. And often even the parent doesn't know for sure. But that's another story....

Tomahawks cost more than $500,000 each, so that's actually one missile. If you include R&D it's more like $1.5 million. Killing is expensive!

Total estimated revenue for CHCCS for the year ending 2006 is $127 million, of which $16.6 million was for capital outlays. The operating budget is about $110 million. Funding source is about 50% state, 47% county, and 3% federal (or in Mark's currency, a little over 3 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at $1.3 million each). I do not know where Terri's source got their information but those numbers are more than a factor of two lower than last year's operating budget in CHCCS.

CHCCS has both a local supplement for teachers paid with state funds (12-25% weighted heavily for longevity) and many positions that are paid exclusively from local funds, including teachers. Teachers and other staff paid exclusively from local funds are paid on the same scale as those paid with state funds so the source of funds is transparent to the employee (for the most part, there may be some exceptions to this). The salary increase for National Board certification is based on a state policy and applies to all teachers in CHCCS regardless of the source of funds.

Growth is a major driver for the anticipated school budget shortfall. For example, ES10 cost $24 million but was funded by the county at only $23 million. The effect of funding ES10 was the equivalent of roughly (and I mean roughly) 3 cents on the county tax rate. With another elementary school anticipated to be needed by 2010 or so and a total of $125 million in capital needs anticipated in CHCCS over the next 10 years, growth will continue to have an impact on school finances. With each new school, we get to do another round of the redistricting shuffle. From the schools' perspective, less growth and more stability would be a good thing. However, like OWASA, the schools have no mechanism to control growth and are not the appropriate forum for those discussions.

Just to be clear, SAPFO does not give the schools a mechanism to control growth. The only role the schools have in SAPFO is to determine whether there is sufficient school capacity to support a development application. If there is, a CAPS is issued. If not, no CAPS would be issued. The schools project enrollment and make requests for funding for anticipated future need to assure there is sufficient capacity. If anything, SAPFO is a tool that supports growth. That said, it does assure adequate classroom capacity is available and is, therefore, consistent with the mission of the school district.

My mistake - thanks for the correction (strange unaccountable mental mathematical breakdown). I'd heard that the Tomahawks used in the Shock & Awe on Baghdad on 3/19/03 were $950,000 each. Anyway - though it may sound silly to some, I think that's the money we need to go after - not more local taxes.

Terri,

You said:

“If the OWASA board would have said (loud enough for someone to hear), we don't have enough water or sewage treatment capacity to support all this new development without running short between 2015 and 2030, what would have happened?”

The reason the OWASA Board did not say that is because it is simply not true. It's obviously not a simple issue, so I'm not going to write a small book right now, but I encourage folks to check out the facts.

Mike--If development is stretching the capacity of schools and threatening the stability of the system, why isn't it the school boards job to tell elected officials so? How else will they know if you don't tell them? I guess I really don't understand the purpose of SAPFO if it isn't to ensure that school capacity is available to support new development.

Terri, I agree that SAPFO is a tool to try to ensure adequate school capacity, whatever the course of development . It is not a mechanism to limit development. I believe CHCCS has communicated growth issues with elected and non-elected officials. However, I do not feel that the school board should adopt a position one way or another on the pros or cons of growth. Our mission is to educate children, whoever and however many they may be. The important issues surrounding growth should be discussed with those who can regulate it, which as I understand it, are the towns.

Mike--I didn't mean to imply that the school board should regulate growth. But open and frequent communications with county and municipal officials about the impacts of current and future growth seem to me to be imperative. I know you all meet with the BOCC, but I don't remember ever seeing joint meetings between CHCCS, Carrboro and Chapel Hill elected officials. With elections coming up, I personally would like to understand how the impact of growth is communicated back and forth between the school board and elected officials at the municipal level.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a teacher at a private school in Raleigh.

I am alarmed at the possible cuts to Orange County and Chapel Hill Carrboro School Districts. In my mind, the single best predictor of student success is student/teacher ratio per each class. The elementary science, gifted, and world language programs would be devstated by the proposed cuts in Chapel Hill/Carrboro District. Orange County is producing equally devastating cuts. Orange County has long been regarded as having the best school systems in the state. The number one goal of a school system is a child's education. I would hope that the Orange County Commissioners seriously look at their proposed funding and make sure the school systems get the money they need.

Terri, You are correct that there is more communication between CHCCS and BOCC than between CHCCS and town officials. The school district has had communication with town officials on growth related issues and I believe additional communication is planned. I am pretty sure the BOCC have discussions with town officials as well. That to me is where most of the feedback about impact of growth on schools should occur as the BOCC are responsible for funding new schools. When towns approve new development, they are in effect raising the county tax rate to pay for new school construction. I think the schools would continue to be a willing partner in whatever forum town and county officials pursue.

Mike, I'm happy that you are joining this discussion.
Please correct me if I have any facts wrong, but
would you please explain to us why the next elementary
school will cost 23 million, when the most recent
several cost 13 million each? The justification that concrete
and steel have increased in price isn't a sufficient answer,
for those components aren't the major costs of building and equipping a substantial building. What's happening here?

Joe, I am told there are two factors that have driven up the cost of construction here. First, the average school construction costs have risen statewide by about 8% per year. Over 5 years, that is about a 47% increase. Second, the multitude of construction projects at UNC has reduced contractor and labor availability locally. I do not have special knowledge about either factor. I do know that the ES10 project was properly bid, there was reasonable participation in the bidding, and that we accepted the lowest bidder. We could have rebid the project but expected that delay would have resulted in further cost increases. I am not sure this answers your question. Is there something else you suspect is contributing to the increased cost?

I am very disturbed by the proposed cuts. The best reason to live in Chapel Hill/Carrboro versus somewhere less expensive is the quality of the school system. The proposed cuts would impact the dual language program, which we enrolled our son in for the fall. It would impact science education, which, after reading and math, is the most important subject.

We already have high taxes, and nobody LIKES taxes, but we need to do whatever it takes to avert the crisis: issue bonds; increase transfer taxes; increase developer impact fees RETROACTIVELY, if retroactive taxation is not overtly illegal; increase regular taxes. We need to "get over the hump" and fix the current problem.

Also: I agree that it is insanity to assume OWASA can magically provide water for an endless number of unnecessary new subdivisions. Have we all forgotten the recent droughts and water restrictions we have ALREADY had in the summers?

Here's a report from Wake County on school construction costs. It compares Wake with 2 other districts in NC (Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Winston Salem) along with several out of state districts. It would be great if Orange County could provide a similar evaluation of their costs.

I still contend that we don't need schools with such large footprints. While our schools do have great 'green' features, they are too big and sprawling to be truly environmentally sensitive.

My new beef, as a result of the work of the Smith Level Road Task Force, is concern over the failure to plan for access by children within the service area of new schools. When siting a school, we need to consider the associated infrastructure for walking and biking as part of the costs of construction. Children inside the walk zone (1.5 miles) should not be forced to ride the bus or be driven due to safety issues.

"I still contend that we don't need schools with such large footprints."

I continue to be appalled and angry about the 190 acres they thought they needed for that new school going in on Eubanks.

Haven't people down here ever heard of "parking structures"? They add to the cost, but have huge eco-advantages over huge seas of asphalt.

Like many older people in Chapel Hill, I am becoming concerned
with the large recent increases in my property taxes,
most of which is going to the county, and half of that is
spent of the operating budgets of the schools.
Last May, after then county manager John Link presented
his recommended budget, I did some analysis of my
county tax burden and how it has skyrocketed recently.
At the two public hearings on the county budget, no provisions
were made for people to present powerpoint presentations,
so I sent my presentation to the commissioners via email.
Here is that presentation:
http://bellsouthpwp.net/c/a/capowski/PropTaxes06.ppt
After the new county manager presents her budget in a few
weeks, I plan to update my presentation.

I am not saying that we shouldn't have good schools -- we
are famous for them. I am however saying that the
schools should not expect a blank check, that their budgets
must be evaluated in the context of other county needs and
in the context of the ability of county citizens to pay for
them. About 23 pct of households in Chapel Hill have
kids in the school system at any one time; it is these
people who line up at the microphone and say "We want
the best for our kids and we are willing to pay ever higher
taxes to pay for the best schools".
Recently, however, more and more people
in the county are starting to push back, and the
commissioners are starting to listen to both sides.

"I am not saying that we shouldn't have good schools — we
are famous for them. I am however saying that the
schools should not expect a blank check, that their budgets
must be evaluated in the context of other county needs and
in the context of the ability of county citizens to pay for
them"

Your presentation (I have Powerpoint at work so I was able to open it) doesn't address them school budget directly. It would be more useful to have a pie chart of how the school monies are spent. I would guess compensation is the biggest part (and this is a cost that is hard to reduce unless one foolishly wants to trim staff), followed by new construction. There MAY be waste in the new school construction budget but, unfortunately, we have kids in trailers right now. I think it would be hard to argue that new schools aren't needed.

"I grew up in a neighborhood with a 3-story elementary school, which is still in use today"

I think there are restrictions on height of schools nowadays. Having said that, I the land use for for excessive numbers of playing fields is absurd and infuriating. Maybe they could, like, stagger gym periods? I only looked at the plans briefly because, by the time I saw them, the Eubanks school seemed to be "a done deal".

Maybe something can still be done with Carrboro High-- I don't know whether they've broken ground for that one-- I don't go in that particular direction much.

Joe,

This year and in recent years, the schools are asking for a continuation of current services and are not asking for a slew of new services. I don't see how the blank check analogy applies.

M

The amount of acreage devoted to elementary schools these days is absolutely absurd. The Z Smith Reynolds foundation worked with UNC on this issue a while back. I grew up in a neighborhood with a 3-story elementary school, which is still in use today. There is a nice playground and plenty of room for kickball, and parking for teachers. The school takes up maybe 15 acres.

(Had problems posting.)

From last night:

Joe, Wake County Schools has experienced the same increase in costs as have other districts in the state. I know some folks who are building houses and they are experiencing similar increases in costs.

Does anyone know what the county is paying per sqft for the county campus? It is my understanding that the senior center is $50 more per sqft than ES10.

SAPFO is not the tool for controlling growth. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if it were used to control development, then that would invite a legal challenge that the county is not living up to its end of the deal to build schools and might invalidate SAPFO.

A fact that is difficult to actully digest and act upon from an affordable housing perspective is that the "better" the school system, the higher the real estate prices. This is why the real estate community is such an ardent supporter of giving the school systems anything they desire. It is also why the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School system collaborated with the local real estate community in the mid-90's to make a promotional video (featuring Freddy Kiger) that they could use to sell prospective homebuyers on buying within the school system. Ironically, this was during a debate on impact fees when Neil Pedersen was spreading the word that the system was desperately overcrowded and needed impact feees of $10,000 plus. It was like a civics class taught by Kurt Vonnegut.

Here is what I tried to post Friday night (wordpress is having a cow over something in my original version, so I am posting small parts until it works):

Mark M., I agree that the funding for these wars have caused an erosion in funding for many programs that states and munis have to make up. This funding would have paid a lot of teachers and built a lot of schools.

From Friday night (playing with it until it posts):

Linda -

Many of the specials teachers in each district are funded via the county. It is probably the same way in Durham.

The state pays for classroom teachers, some school administrators, and some central office staff.

Gerry's point is that the district could potentially legally choose not to give the same raises to locally funded teachers that will be given by the state to the state-funded teachers. Doesn't seem fair, does it, paying teachers doing the same jobs in the same district on different payscales?

Good luck trying to retain those teachers.

(there must be a spam filter that hates some term in here)

From above, replace

specials teachers

with

-Music Teachers
-Art Teachers
-Science Teachers
-Reading S p e c i a l i s t s
-Technology S p e c i a l i s t s

(Wordpress or a plugin must dislike the word S p e c i a l i s t s)

Tom,
Drove around Carrboro high the other night - fields are already in place. I can't wait until the high lighting for Carrboro High (on one peak), Culbreth (on another peak) and Southern Community Park (on another peak) all light up the Southern sky like Raleigh.

I've heard rumors about the unprecedented state-of-the-art electronics that will be incorporated into Carrboro High. I've also heard that the student surveillance system (now that's a lesson the students won't soon forget!) will be big and bad.

Anybody know what that means for the electrical load?

Last week I posted a comment spectulating the BOCC should have expected an increase in both districts' budget requests and not wanting "perpetual tax increases". These are two separate concerns. I don't see any other way but to increase taxes for next year and I support an increase to meet the demands for both districts. In looking over the list of possible budget cuts ( see district's Budget Alert, http://www.chccs.k12.nc.us/Budget/BudgetAlert5_07.pdf ) it is quite significant. We'll learn more about the proposed budget cuts in the CHCCS budget at tonight's meeting.

Oops, I cut off the rest of the note...

The comment about "perpetual tax increases" is related to my perception of how the county, towns and school district(s) do business. As echoed by many others (or maybe I am echoeing others), services for residents, including schools, needs better support from new residential developments. Of course, increased commercial tax base would be a big help. It should have been obvious our current approach is not 'sustainable'.

Ooops, I cut off the rest of the post

The comment about "perpetual tax increases" is related to my perception of how the county, towns and school district(s) do business. As echoed by many others (or maybe I am echoeing others), services for residents, including schools, needs better support from new residential developments. Of course, increased commercial tax base would be a big help. It should have been obvious our current approach is not 'sustainable'.

The N&O has an article highlighting the OCS BOE support for a tax increase:

"The school board unanimously passed a resolution Monday asking the Orange County Board of Commissioners to raise the county ad valorem tax "and/or" make an adjustment to the county's budget allocation for schools to fund the school board's requested budget."

"We're not saying how much to do it, we're just saying: 'Given what you've got here, we support you in what we're trying to do, we support you and us,' " Triebel {School board vice chairman} said.

Triebel said his research indicates this is the first time the Orange County Schools Board of Education has supported an increase in taxes.

Thank God they will succumb to the panic that has beset them in the press and fork over the extra money, whether they really need it or not. Raise taxes through the roof. If you cannot afford it, then move away.

Amen, brotha man!

Mike,

Any idea what the surveillance system in the new Carrbor High will cost? Also, was there any siginificant Board discussion of this?

Thanks,
Mark

Mark,

Carrboro High will have wireless and other technology enhancements but I do not remember the specifics about this or the security. I do not remember a specific discussion about a surveillance system but I do think there are cameras and access controls. Any discussion would have been before the final bids were let, probably back in 2005. What have you heard about the surveillance system? There have been some rumors about CHS, most unfounded. My favorite was that the mascot was going to be the Clam. Is the latest the Clam Cam in the Can at Carrboro?

Both existing high schools have requested additional security including cameras. I am the board liaison to Chapel Hill High School and the staff there are quite concerned about their vulnerability and the safety of students given their open campus. My sense is that East has an acute sense of awareness of security issues given their near miss that extends to parents as well as staff. The cost of retrofitting security cameras a dozen or so at a time runs into the tens of thousands. At least some of these cameras can track movement automatically. The current budget request has an item for "Improve School Security" for $77,730. There is also a request in this year's budget to add one security guard at each of the three high schools. Cost = $75,000.

Mike

This article in today's Durham Herald provides some reference to building cost increases cited above. Growth is expensive but rapid growth is even more expensive.

DURHAM -- Runaway inflation in the construction market is eroding the spending power of a $110 million bond package voters approved in 2005, administrators and elected officials say.

New benchmarks show that if city officials were assembling the same list of projects today that they did when they were preparing the bond package three years ago, they'd have to figure on them costing almost 39 percent more.

...But as it happens, 2004 was the last year construction prices were relatively stable. An industry-standard benchmark, the Turner Building Cost Index, rose 5.4 percent that year, but that was tame compared to what followed in 2005 and 2006. In those years, construction prices rose 9.5 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.

...Mitchell couldn't explain why the benchmarks a consultant recently gave the city are higher than the Turner index, but it's known that a construction boom at UNC Chapel Hill and elsewhere in the Triangle has given contractors extra bargaining power.

http://www.heraldsun.com/durham/4-852338.cfm

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