JCPS Says It Needs At Least 3 More Schools. It Really Needs 5

And it needs a bond to pay for them

By ELIOT DUKE
Dunn Daily Record

SMITHFIELD – Brooks Moore delivered the bad news to Johnston County commissioners Tuesday night.

Johnston County Public Schools tasked its chief of facilities and construction with presenting the system’s capital needs to county commissioners in a joint meeting between the two boards.

When Moore finished going through a long presentation that included putting a bond on next year’s ballot, commissioners withheld their applause.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the report I just heard,” Commissioner Fred Smith Jr. said. “It is totally inadequate for what this county needs.”

What Smith didn’t know at the moment was Moore tried to be gentle in his assessment of the school system’s real capital needs over the coming years.

“There are much more needs but I did not want you to feel like I was throwing the kitchen sink at you,” said Moore. “I certainly can.”

Citing a recent ORED study, Moore said Johnston County is expected to be more than 7,000 students over capacity in the next decade. The system, Moore explained, needs at least three schools but in reality it’s more like five, and that’s not mentioning the ongoing annual upkeep of existing facilities, which is estimated to be more than $100 million.

“This plan is aggressive,” Moore said. “It adds almost 6,000 seats and removes 143 mobiles. It reduces class sizes to more optimal learning and it gets kids into brick and mortar buildings and out of trailers.

“I’m begging for a 2022 bond. You wouldn’t start construction until 2025 [with a 2024 bond] and you wouldn’t open a school again until 2026. That’s a long time. It’s scary.”

Smith said a disconnect between the two boards over the years resulted in miscommunication that negatively impacted Johnston County residents. The commissioner stressed the importance of opening the lines of communication, starting with JCPS being fully transparent where its capital needs are concerned.

“That’s a problem we have in Johnston County today: We thought too small,” Smith said. “The school board and the schools facility people have not been honest enough with what you need to meet the needs of the people of this county. This county has the money it takes to get rid of mobile schools and to build the schools we need to have a first class educational system for our students.

“What are facts? [Moore] said he didn’t want to put more on the table because of sticker shock. The commissioners asked to have this meeting because we want to start a new day.”

Johnston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chad Stewart said he understood the school system faces many needs, but he needed more assurances from the board of education before even considering the possibility of asking taxpayers to support another bond referendum.

“One thing I’ve heard here repeatedly … the unknown, we’re not sure, we’re uncertain,” said Stewart. “When we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars and I hear those terms over and over, I want some certainty. I want to know where we’re heading. We can vote on setting a bond … but we can’t pass the bond. It takes our citizens to pass the bond.

“You’re going to ask people who have been educating their kids at home and feeding them and not using our facilities for over a year and … say ‘hey we need a couple hundred million dollars to start building schools?’ It’s a mindset thing. We need to be careful.”

Johnston County Board of Education member Ronald Johnson expressed his displeasure with how commissioners responded to Moore’s presentation, as if it was something they didn’t want to hear.

“Just sitting here, it becomes almost frustrating for in the beginning to say ‘it’s inaccurate, you need more than this, come with us, be honest with what you need,’” Johnson said. “[Moore] says we need five schools and everyone is like ‘whoa.’

“Where we do realistically go from here? We had these same conversations in 2018. Just my frustration sitting here with this, I can only imagine what the outside people, the frustration they have with taking their children to overcrowded schools, the teachers in the mobile units.”

Commissioner Patrick Harris appreciated Moore’s effort to lessen the burden facing the county, but said the problem isn’t going away.

“You wanted to come with something reasonable and not something where it just blew everyone out of their chairs,” said Harris. “But at some point we need to look at, realistically, what we can do to fix the problem. I don’t like mobile classrooms. I do think it’s time to fix some of these problems and move forward. Let’s stop the overcrowding problem. If we’re building schools and six months later, they’re overcrowded, that’s a problem. Let’s build for the future.”

Both boards eventually agreed to come together in a group setting soon and hammer out the details on a realistic, achievable plan for moving forward.

Tuesday provided a first step towards reaching that goal.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Not one word about the 3.8 million dollars missing that these board of commissioners voted to replace back in February a year ago and then the board of Education spending 2.2 million dollars for a $400.00 Christmas bonus for every single employee that would not come to school and educate your child this last school year. That was a in your face insult to these Johnston County Commissioner’s to just let them know how much respect they have for them and our Johnston Tax dollars. Watch the link to the true movie Bad Education folks and it will all make sense.

    https://www.popsugar.com/node/47269216

    https://jocoreport.com/in-4-1-vote-commissioners-approve-school-funding-bailout/

    https://jocoreport.com/johnston-county-public-school-employees-to-receive-extra-400/

  2. Oh and I forgot about the last insult from the Johnston County School Board gave to the Johnston County Tax Payers and Johnston County Commissioner’s. It had to do with the messenger Mr. Brooks Moore 17.38 percent pay raise. Talk about not having any respect for Johnston Tax Payers Dollars and in your face attitude. You can’t ask for and get any better of an example for no respect for these Johnston County Commissioner’s and Tax Payers than this.

    https://jocoreport.com/16292-pay-raise-for-school-employee-approved-6-to-1/

  3. Fred Smith is a good one to talk. His company has developed a lot of these subdivisions that has caused all of this overflow in our schools. The commissioners need to stop rubber stamping every development that rolls through before there is no farm land left. The Board of Education is so corrupt that it is a mark against this county.

    • I agree with you 100%! This is probably just another scam to take more money from the taxpayers and give more raises to themselves. Go ahead and put this bond to the public and my vote will be a BIG NO!!!!!

  4. Fred Smith? Really? He’s part of the problem, a big part of it. All his communities just keep popping up. Riverwood is massive for JoCo, and the schools just can’t handle it. There are so many trailers around the elementary and middle schools. So much for a “nice looking community”.

  5. I don’t understand why the county keeps approving massive subdivisions when the schools are so overcrowded and our infrastructure is so overburdened. If the county insists on approving all this housing, why not require developers to pay a significant fee towards building new schools and improving infrastructure? Just a thought.

  6. Because Mr. Fred Smith doesn’t have to pay Johnston County Taxes on any of his building projects here in this County or any County in NC for a period of time while on the market. He helped get this law passed while in the NC Senate. Hey but Mr. Fred is fighting like H3LL for us folks!

  7. What this meeting did was to explain, in clear detail, the nuisances of public education costs. Fluctuations in services provided and enrollment clearly explained the depletion of the fund balance and why the school system had to ask for assistance from the county. Let’s not forget that several years ago the school system had a larger fund balance but the public cried out when it publicized and JCPS returned half to the county, per their demand. That fund balance would have drastically increased their ability to handle these fluctuations. It’s not cheap to provide the quality education these children deserve, residents demand and the NC constitution requires.

  8. The idea is simple, guys. They don’t really want to build new schools. For a year now, they’ve been grooming parents to do it at home. We need new schools and we need to get rid of these SAME OLD POLITICIANS that do not speak for Johnston County residents.

  9. Until the school board can show where every penny has gone line by line, they should not get more money. The commissioners needs to stop approving new subdivisons until the infrastructure catches up.

  10. So basically you want the county commissioners to tell people they can’t develop there land. Who pays taxes on this land that we are speaking of? There’s too much money involved and the growth won’t stop. If you don’t like the growth move!!!

  11. It not just the need for school buildings, need to factor the need for the buses to drive the kids to school the teachers to teach the kids the supplies ,power for heat and ac,and general upkeep for the buildings and grounds etc etc etc

  12. So all of you defending the JCPS are saying that everyone else can have a budget and stay within that budget, but JCPS is above those rules. Living the dream and T is this the best you can come up with? The JCPS can’t be expected to adhere to a budget so we need dump truck loads of more million of dollars please!!!!

    • Schools systems are not a business. They also should not be given a blank check or go without accountability. Watch the last meeting between the JCPS board and County Commissioners and hear the detailed report from the finance officer for JCPS, the details about the school system finances are clearly outlined. The fluctuations in costs and how that happens, the things JCPS is working on to save costs and how covid has impacted the finances.

  13. Oh Fred Fred Fred…….Here is a good starting point. 1) Developers pay taxes on every ongoing project. 2) For every house built the developer and new owner if not an existing county resident deposits an amount in a fund specifically designated for School Cap Ex. 3) Slow the da*n developing until the BOE can get caught up. I’m so sick of this from the commissioners “We need better schools” well Fred everything in the area is over capacity but saw you were breaking ground on more development around Riverwood. .

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