Franklin City School Board seeks discussion with city on roof funding

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, July 27, 2023

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The Franklin City School Board voted unanimously Thursday, July 20, to adopt a resolution approving a $2 million loan from the Literary Fund of Virginia for the roof renovations to Franklin High School and S.P. Morton Elementary School. However, board members also indicated a desire to have a discussion with the city to clarify the amount of money available for roofs beyond the loan.

Jerry McCreary

Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Carter explained that adoption of the resolution was needed in order to allow the work on the roofs to continue on schedule.

Ward 6 Board Member Jerry McCreary noted that with the approval of the loan, he believed there should then be $2.9 million available for funding the roofs, alluding to $960,000 the school division has paid back to the city over the course of the past year.

McCreary explained the process in the past that led to the division paying this money back to the city.

“The way I understood the finance director at the time was that the board had already approved a loan for $2 million to repair the roof, and shortly after that the state calculator came back with $1.2 million more than what our budget was,” he said. “So the rationale is, ‘Well if we’re taking out a loan for $2 million to repair the roof, to save local taxpayers money, let’s take a million that’s coming from the state and go ahead and pay back the loan.’ 

“But the reality is, I’m finding out the last several months, that the loan was never actually secured and that the city has required the school division to make monthly payments of sixty-some thousand dollars back to the city based on the fact that we approved paying back the loan a million dollars,” he continued. “So the way it’s been handled is a mystery to me, so I would appreciate, at some point, however it needs to take place, if we could have another discussion with the city on this matter, because again, my understanding back (then) was that the loan was imminent or had been approved. Now we know it hasn’t been until now.”

In terms of current funding for the roof renovations, McCreary asked Carter, “What is the city prepared to make available to the division?”

Carlton Carter

“Those discussions have not been had,” Carter replied.

Referencing the resolution on the table, Carter told the board, “You can either pass it through and then have a discussion afterwards, or table this and then ask for a meeting, because that’s where we are.”

However, he noted that delaying approval of the resolution would push back the renovation schedule and could interfere with the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.

McCreary confirmed with Carter that there will be more expenses on the roofs that will not be covered by the $2 million loan.

“Because we prepaid that $960,000, to me, that money should be immediately available to go to the roofs,” McCreary said.

“I follow the math,” Carter said. “I’m agreeing with you, but I’m saying to you that it’s going to have to be a discussion with the city one way or the other, and the only danger at this point is if you table this right now, it’s jeopardizing the opening of school.”

McCreary noted he was feeling frustrated in his effort to be a good steward of the funds available due to the confusion over how much money is available.

“Whether it’s just simple lack of understanding on my part as a board member, or if we’ve not been given factual information over the last year, I don’t know,” he said. “There’s a lot of different moving parts.”

Carter said, “In full transparency, Mr. McCreary, I think it was just an ill-advised recommendation by the past finance director, and now here we are, so we have to circle back around to have a discussion with the city.”

“OK, OK,” McCreary replied. “Well, I understand the need to move forward with this because we don’t want to jeopardize the start of the new school year. But I would ask that we set up a meeting with the appropriate people from the city to resolve the money that was paid back, essentially.”

After the unanimous vote, Ward 1 Board Member and Board Chair Robert Holt said, “We will arrange a meeting with finance shortly, and yes, we’ll let you know.”