The Great Schools in Wake Coalition may not officially be endorsing any Wake County school board candidates, but it's arguably come out with a last-minute attempt to try to sway voters.
In a press release today, GSIW contends that the school board majority has wasted taxpayers $113.5 million since December 2009. How much of the items on this GSIW list would be considered waste could be debated.
“For almost two years, the Board majority has exhibited a lack of fiscal responsibility to taxpayers with ill-conceived, hastily made decisions,” said GSIW chairwoman Yevonne Brannon in the press release. "“When items are brought up for discussion by Board minority members who have repeatedly asked for supporting data, their reasonable requests are dismissed and multi-million dollar decisions are made without proper research, discussion of options, or the appropriate cost analysis.”
The biggest item on the GSIW list is the $52.6 million in 15-year leasing costs for the new school system headquarters in Cary. The school system contends it will save $29 million over 20 years in facilities costs by consolidating its buildings. But critics argue Wake can't sell for a good value the now unused admin buildings like the one on Wake Forest Road.
The next biggest item on the list is $15.4 million for abandoning the Forest Ridge High site. That was a figure initially given by school administrators that they've since backed away from.
Next comes the $14.1 million that GSIW says was wasted in lost capacity from converting Leesville Road Middle back to a traditional calendar.
Then comes the $11.9 million in "sunken costs" for renovations completed at the Longview School in 2006. GSIW says that money has now been wasted because the campus will be converted to hold the new male single-gender leadership academy.
GSIW also points to what it estimates to be $2.175 million in one-time transportation costs and $1.333 million in annual transportation costs from the new student assignment plan. Staff and board members say that while costs will go up initially to implement the new plan, due to grandfathering, they believe they will drop afterward.
GSIW also charges in the press release that "these cost estimates don’t factor in millions of dollars in federal magnet grants and Disadvantaged Student Supplemental funding that will be lost because of changes made
to the Student Assignment Policy in 2010."
“The Board majority has not acted as a responsible steward of Wake County taxpayer dollars,” added Brannon in the press release. “Their decisions to, among other things, create new programs without first determining market demand, abandon already approved projects with significant sunk costs, and create policies that prevent us from securing federal grants is completely irresponsible.”
Brannon's charges about further loss of funding are speculative.