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Pender County Schools addresses confusion over $177.7 million bond funding request

Pender County Schools
Pender County Schools(WECT)
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 1:14 PM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - A misunderstanding by Pender County Schools (PCS) Superintendent Steven Hill about the need for a presentation to accompany a multi-million dollar bond request created some confusion among Pender County commissioners at a meeting on Monday.

The Pender-Topsail Post & Voice posted an article Thursday, May 19 about the School Board’s bond request for $177.7 million, with a sub-heading that said, “BOC miffed no school officials attended meeting”.

The article describes commissioners’ disappointment with PCS and Superintendent Hill for not being at the meeting to present the bond request.

According to the PCS public information officer, the school board admits the oversight and wants to clarify the error was unintentional.

“This was an unfortunate oversight that was not taken lightly which is why we felt transparency was in order — ownership was taken and we look forward to working with the Board on this and future projects.”

In response to the article, the PCS official released the following statement:

The acknowledged representation at the meeting was a misunderstanding by Superintendent Dr. Steven Hill that the meeting in question wasn’t for a public presentation — rather for the commissioners to receive written documentation for review (following the two week information request period prior to public meetings).

Over the last two years local government staff members, school staff members and both boards proactively worked together, without issue, reviewing research of school overpopulation. Together, the collaborative reviewed commissioned studies that examined all avenues for responding to the explosive Pender population growth — a top five in the state for several years. The only solution offered by the demographics study and facility needs assessment was the construction of additional school buildings, the undeniable decision was to support our students and families with a bond referendum.

North Carolina Legislation dictates that the responsibility of school construction rests on the shoulders of the local governments. Tax burdens on local citizens should only be considered when there is an absolute need, and during the past two-plus years this need has become very apparent. More and more community members are attending hearings in an effort to slow further housing developments in Pender County. Pender Schools and the School Board are currently and will continue to work with government officials to ensure the best possible facilities for our children.

As Pender County grows, overcrowding in schools is becoming a big problem.

The Town Manager Chad McEwen noted it was necessary for PCS to begin the bond application process because of the limited time frame between now and the November election to complete the necessary steps.

The bond request is for money to fund the building of new schools and for the renovation of existing structures. If, following public hearings, it is approved by the Board of Commissioners, it would likely involve an increase in the county tax rate and that would have to be voted on by the public in November’s election.

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