Commissioners approve new library for Tayloe, study of capacity|Will chart room in schools versus pupil populations

Published 6:56 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to study school capacity after turning down a motion to withhold funding for a new library at a Washington elementary school.
The county schools presented with a plan that would have used more than $500,000 of the system’s funding for construction to build a new library and playroom at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School.
Commissioner Hood Richardson proposed that the funding be delayed until the county could study the capacity of all of the county’s schools.
“The school board is still not handling the money of the citizens of Beaufort County the way it ought to be,” he said.
Richardson and Commissioner Stand Deatherage, Republicans, supported the measure, which went unbacked by the rest of the board.
Board of Education Chairman Robert Belcher told the board of commissioners that the project has long been needed at the school. The current library, which is two classrooms with the dividing wall knocked out, serves a population of between 550 and 600 students, and the school now lacks an indoor play space for the students, since a nearby outbuilding was condemned, he said.
Instead, the board approved the expenditures, including the new project at John Cotten Tayloe, with Richardson and Deatherage dissenting.
But Richardson did have his way on the capacity study, which a majority of the board backed.
“Come on people, It’s time for us to get real about what’s going on with people’s money,” Richardson said. “These people (school officials) will go on building buildings as long as you let them build them.”
Richardson said he wants strictly a study of capacity, without any content related to which projects should be funded in what order. He said other discussions, including school boundary changes and project priorities, could be discussed using the study, but should not be included in its scope.
Deatherage, who initially brought up the idea, said it was important that the county get ready for tough financial times to come, including by conducting the study.
“There’s going to be some hard love coming down to the people of Beaufort County from the taxing authorities,” Deatherage said.
Belcher said he also backed the study, with provisos.
“I would like to see a study,” he said. “As long as it’s done fairly and equitably, I would like to see a study.”
Commissioner Al Klemm said he wasn’t convinced the schools’ maintenance staff is doing enough planning for things like preventative maintenance and expected repairs.
Klemm, a Republican, and Commissioner Robert Cayton, a Democrat, opposed the study. Democrat Ed Booth was ill and missed the meeting.