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Proposed bill divides responsibility for school construction, maintenance

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It's a delicate balance between school boards and county commissioners, one that has your kids in the middle when it comes to their education.

Now, a bill is almost through our state's legislature that's ruffled feathers on both sides as people question if non-educational officials should be responsible for educational facilities.

Senate Bill 236 moves the responsibility of school construction and maintenance to county commissioners instead of school boards.

Supporters of the bill say it originated from the Wake County Board of Commissioners to lower their bond rates, something that's possible through acquiring more facilities and land.

The bill originally targeted the entire state but after controversy in the Senate, it was changed to just nine counties, two of which are in Eastern North Carolina: Beaufort and Dare.

Beaufort County school officials say it hurts more than it helps.

"91 out of 100 counties are not included and when I look at things, 91% of anything generally sends a strong message," said Dr. Don Phipps, Beaufort County Schools Superintendent.

Studies show children do better in well maintained environments and Phipps says the most qualified person to maintain those environments are the people closest to them – the schools officials.

In Dare County it's a different story. County Commissioners there asked specifically to be included in the bill.

"Everybody is going to have a difference in opinion but in this day and age, with the challenges before our administration and teachers, those folks are professionals. They're trained to teach and that's what they need to focus on," said Warren Judge, Dare County Commissioner Chairman.

Ultimately, it shows what works in one county might not work in another and that's why Phipps says the bill needs to be tailored for each county.

"I think to apply something and have us eat out of the same spoon as every else, it doesn't necessarily apply to us and I'm not sure it's solving a problem to be honest with you," said Phipps.

The bill has already passed the Senate and it's first reading in the house. During the next few weeks, more counties could be added or taken away.

Beaufort County Commissioners said they'd take up the topic during their next meeting, June 3rd.

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