The Wilson County Commission approved a resolution authorizing up to $6.4 million in bonds to cover upgrades at Wilson Central High School at its meeting Monday, with a divided vote of 16-9.
Several commissioners balked at the timing of the item because of uncertainties surrounding both the county and school budgets, but a vote to defer failed to gather enough support.
The bond is scheduled to be paid back through 2035, and will cover costs for lighting upgrades, HVAC upgrades and roof replacement at Wilson Central High School.
“As far as what we’re doing with this program, the program’s coming out of savings,” Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall told the commission. “We’re not asking you all for any money, but for you to approve the bond.”
Although the county government will not shoulder the cost of the bond, the Wilson County Board of Education has asked the commission for funding in its 2020-21 budget — arguing that keeping a status quo budget is not reasonable alongside continued school growth.
“No one knows what the sales tax revenue is going to look like, which funds our school system,” District 3 Commissioner Bobby Franklin said. “It could be down a good ways for a long time, we don’t know how fast it’s going to come back, and we also don’t know how much we’re going to have to shore up the education side of things with the general fund and debt going into this budget. I don’t believe this is a good time to buy new wagon wheels when we seem to be circling the wagons financially.”
Franklin added that he supports the repair work itself and introduced a motion for a 60-day deferral.
“I think the roof needs to be replaced, yes, but is it a wise investment to pay a 15-year bond to replace lights?” District 11 Commissioner John Gentry said. “That’s my question.”
However, the remaining commissioners wanted to move ahead on the project, and Finance Director Aaron Maynard said the county entered the pandemic from a strong enough financial position to break even despite revenue shortages.
“It doesn’t matter if we defer it or not, the roof’s leaking and it’s got to be fixed,” District 14 Commissioner Tommy Jones said. “We can put it off and it’d just cost more money and more money. We just heard our finance director say everything looked like we’re going to wind up the year in good shape, and no matter what that roof is still leaking.”
Ultimately, Jones joined commissioners Cyndi Bannch, Chad Barnard, Kenny Reich, Terry Scruggs, Kevin Costley, Sara Patton, Sonja Robinson, Chris Dowell, Joe Ali, Lauren Breeze, William Glover, Annette Stafford, Mike Kurtz, Wendell Marlowe and Joy Bishop in passing the item, though Bishop also voted for the deferral.
In addition, the commission voted to approve a series of budget amendments and appropriations for the previous fiscal year, as its members look to submit a budget for 2020-21.
The Wilson County Commission’s education and budget committees will meet at 6 p.m. on Thursday to continue the process. Members of the public can view the meetings on Charter/Spectrum 198, AT&T 99 or via livestream on twitch.tv.