by Jeff Taylor
The Mecklenburg County board of commissioners say they have an agreement on a $123 million school building plan to replace the $172 million plan they voted down just last week. The big shifts besides the obviously smaller number:
– construction money that could not have been spent before the 2007 bond vote is out.
– South Meck high and Long Creek elementary design money is in. The previous package left them totally out even though CMS’ own need-rankings placed them higher than Harding and Idlewild, both of which were fully-funded.
– as predicted, Raleigh’s newly approved lease-purchase financing wrinkle for schools is part of the deal.
So on the face of it, this seems to be a much better package all around — smaller, more attuned to needs, and maybe more innovative with financing.
Lease-purchase can be a dangerous tool, however, requiring good project oversight to make sure a district does not overpay.
Think of how complicated it is to figure out if you are getting a good deal on leasing a car. Now make the car cost $50 million and stretch payments over a couple decades. South Carolina has used lease-purchase for years to build schools, often with great results but sometimes amid scandal.
Let’s be careful here but, on balance, this looks like a positive development.