The county’s search for spare cash to mold-proof area schools has been thrown for a loop on Friday when Alamance County’s manager Heidi York received a quizzical email from her counterpart with the Alamance-Burlington school system.
That morning, school superintendent Dain Butler sent York a message to inquire about a “preventative plan” that the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners had previously asked the schools to prepare to avoid a recurrence of this summer’s mold infestation. Butler asked the county manager if the commissioners expected him to share this plan at their next meeting on September 18. In the event that they did, the superintendent forwarded York “a long term air quality plan for ABBS” that he said his “team is currently creating.”
“This would actually bankrupt the county.”
– County commissioner Bill Lashley
Attached to this unassuming email was a 10-page PowerPoint presentation that spelled out the school system’s plans to address the roofing and HVAC issues which have been credited with the recent mold crisis. Particularly noteworthy was the last frame in this slide show which offered a “summary” of the work along with the “estimated costs.”
According to the superintendent’s presentation, the school system will need a cash advance of $200,000 to $250,000 to cover the design work for the necessary HVAC upgrades. It will also require another $250,000 to $300,000 in design services for the repair and replacement of substandard roofs.
These design fees were merely a prelude, however, to the superintendent’s eye-popping estimates for the actual cost of this work. According to Butler’s presentation, the school system will need “$30 million per year” to replace, install, and dehumidify the air circulation systems in up to eight schools. He also predicted another “$15 million per year” to repair, replace, and install roofs at as many as four area schools.
This anticipated outlay of $45 million a year was only compounded by the cost of the new personnel that the superintendent insists should be added to the school system’s maintenance staff. These extra hands include an assistant director with an annual salary of $94,170 as well as 41 “building managers” who would, together, run an additional $2,149,548.
Butler made no mention of these budget-busting estimates when the Alamance-Burlington school board convened its latest work session on Tuesday. But the superintendent’s figures have already begun to make an impact on the county’s elected leaders – including commissioner Bill Lashley, who serves as one of the two liaisons between the county’s governing board and the school board.
Lashley made no bones about his first impression of Butler’s plan when he recently discussed the matter with The Alamance News.
“This would actually bankrupt the county,” the commissioner declared.
Lashley went on to acknowledge that, while the county theoretically has $71 million in its own cash reserves, it needs at least $17 million of those funds to meet a state-level guideline that all local governments maintain savings worth at least 8 percent of their annual budget.
The commissioner went on to point to the $19 million or so in mold remediation expenses that the school system has recently incurred – and which he said has left a gaping hole in the budget “that’s going to have to be filled.”