New Schools & 1/4 cent Sales Tax Town Hall Meeting

WE NEED YOU – THURSDAY, JUNE 23rd @ 7 pm – OLD COURTHOUSE in CARTHAGE!

It’s almost a year to the day that Dr. Bob was reinstated as our Superintendent of Schools. During this past year, he’s made amazing changes to the moral of our teachers, empowered our students, downsized our central office staff, and made difficult decisions concerning our budget.

Right now, we are facing another challenge that can’t be solved by Dr. Grimesey alone. Our schools are overcrowded and our aging buildings need to be replaced. Our Board of Education and Dr. Bob have worked diligently to develop a plan to replace and expand our facilities so we can accommodate our growing student population. Unfortunately, school construction funding is directly tied to our County Commissioner’s and local representatives, Senator Tillman, Representative Boles, and Representative McNeill.

Rep. Boles and Rep. McNeill will be hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the ¼ cent sales tax proposal for the November ballot this Thursday, June 23 at 7 pm at the old courthouse in Carthage. The Moore County Commissioners have recommended that the ¼ cent sales tax be used to build new schools based on the Moore County Schools Master Facilities Plan. Moore County School’s ability to start construction in the near future is directly tied to this sales tax. Without it, Moore County School’s will need to wait for another funding source to be identified by the County Commissioners before we can begin construction delaying new schools for several years.

WE NEED YOU! Without community support for the 1/4 cent sales tax and expanded language on the November ballot, we will not see new schools in the next 2-3 years. Here is how you can help:

1. Attend the Community Town Hall and show your support for Moore County Schools, Thursday, June 23 at 7 pm at the Old Courthouse in Carthage.
2. Speak in support of the 1/4 cent tax at the Community Town Hall meeting.
3. If you can’t attend the meeting, please email Representative Boles & Representative McNeill and express your support for school construction and the expanded language on the November ballot for the 1/4 cent sales tax.

To learn more about the meeting – Read The Pilot article – Town Hall Meeting to Hear Input on Tax Bill

Schools Reach Out to Military Families for Input

Originally Published by The Pilot – March 1, 2016

A group of military spouses is seeking volunteers to create bridges between the Moore County school system and both established and recently arrived military families.

“Our goal is to establish volunteer liaisons for schools with a military student population,” said Rollie Sampson, co-chair of the Military Family Council. “We are currently looking for a minimum of one liaison per school with military connected students, and we plan to have those in place by this fall.

“Volunteers should be prepared to participate in a monthly council meeting, work with the principal and PTA/PTO to support military families, and be a resource for all transitioning families.”

Sampson said that the liaisons would be active only within the public school system.

“It will function in a similar manner to a PTA/PTO,” she said. “Everyone participating in the group is a volunteer and has at least one child enrolled in Moore County Schools. Larger schools or schools with high military populations may have more than one liaison.

“Ideal candidates should have been part of Moore County Schools for one year, be willing to commit five hours a month in volunteer time, and have their contact information shared on a Military Family Network roster,” she said. “Ideally, we hope to have at least one liaison in place at each school.”

Sampson and Kate Curtin, Southern Middle School PTA president, will co-chair the Council through the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year.

“We have begun identifying liaisons for individual schools,” Sampson said. “Additionally, the group is also working on addressing the needs of all transitioning students as well as identifying ways to support military students.”

Sampson said the idea for the Military Family Council grew out of the Moore County Schools Military Parents Advisory Committee, which met quarterly to discuss issues specific to military students.

“From those meetings, we realized that military families would benefit from peer support to answer questions that were specific to military students as well as provide assistance as these families transitioned in and out of Moore County Schools,” she said. “By having a point of contact or liaison at each school, military families have a contact person to assist them as they navigate a new school and community.

“For military families who are already established in our school system, the MFC provides them with an advocacy group that partners with MCS to develop programs and provide access to resources that support their students as they try to balance school with the challenges of military life such as multiple deployments and frequent moves.”

Sampson said that the council would ultimately be of benefit to nonmilitary students and their families as well.

“As we improve the way we work with military families, we will end up developing support systems that benefit all students,” she said. “Anything we can do more efficiently during the enrollment process will mean a smoother transition and less stress for our new families.”

The Council has developed a survey for military and transitioning families to assist with developing programs and systems for these students. The survey can be found on the Parents for Moore Facebook page and at http://goo.gl/forms/r0nAmwYz8S or at https://www.facebook.com/events/558115761014083/

“This survey really helps us to define exactly what the needs are of students from military families,” Sampson said. “Sometimes what is perceived as the need is not the actual need.”

The survey, which is available for active duty military, their spouses and children, and those employed with the military, will be available online until March 24.

“We are working with Moore County Schools to share the survey through the school system,” Sampson said.

The group is also working with Moore County Schools to host a Military Family Forum on April 15 to aid discussion about issues that are specific to military families in Moore County.

The one-day event will include military parents, students and educators from Moore County Schools.

“This a grassroots movement coordinated by military parents with children enrolled in Moore County Schools,” Sampson said. “We are working with Superintendent Bob Grimesey and Sara Bigley, administrator for Student Support Services, as we create the guidelines for the council.”

Grimesey praised the creation of the council.

“The emergence of the new military family council is a dream come true for me,” he said. “It has been one of my highest priorities since I became superintendent.

“So it goes without saying that I am deeply grateful to Rollie Sampson, Kate Curtain and the other military-connected parents who have stepped up to provide leadership in the council’s development. They are building a framework that will add to Moore County’s value as a home for military families for generations to come.”

Bigley said that she enjoyed working with “such a wonderful group” of parents.

“Students from military families have unique needs, and the Council will be able to help them with their transition both into and out of this region more easily,” Bigley said. “Their efforts can better bring their needs to our attention, and will help us to meet those needs more quickly.

“They are a great group, and I am thrilled to be working with them.”

The group’s next meeting will be March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Moore County Schools’ central office in Carthage. Information may be found at

https://www.facebook.com/events/445945948928170/permalink/445954215594010/

All are invited to attend.

For information on becoming a liaison contact Sampson at (910) 603-8750 or at rolliesampson@gmail.com.

Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot.com.

County To Keep Up Pressure On State Over School Funding

via County to Keep Up Pressure on State Over School Funding | News | thepilot.com.

Moore County commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno urged his fellow board members Tuesday night to keep up the fight in the new year for the state to meet its obligation on public school funding.

The board repeatedly adopted resolutions over several months and wrote letters to state lawmakers last year urging them to “fix the hole” in the state teacher funding formula. The commissioners also joined a growing chorus of calls from other counties around the state urging the General Assembly to restore the 40 percent of lottery funds that are supposed to go to public schools. Right now, only about 19 percent of the proceeds go to education, Picerno pointed out.

“Someone needs to hold the state accountable, why they are not giving us what they promised,” Picerno said in his comments at the end of the meeting.

The commissioners also went on the war path last fall when Moore was one of 21 counties left out of an expansion of the state sales tax.

“I’m still upset about that,” Picerno said. “It needs to be fixed. And it certainly needs to be explained.”

Picerno noted that Moore County sent letters to its three state legislators, Reps. Jamie Boles and Allen McNeill and Sen. Jerry Tillman. Only McNeill responded.

He said it seems that the county “wasted our time and breath.”

“We didn’t do this for show,” he said. “We want an answer. We deserve an answer.”

Picerno said Moore County is facing “some huge” capital needs for the school system.

“That money could be well spent here,” he said.

The commissioners voted to include a referendum on a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax on the ballot for the March 15 primary elections, which would enable the county to borrow money to pay for building new schools.

Picerno said he wants the county to conduct an audit to determine exactly what it is costing Moore County taxpayers “to plug the hole in the state teacher funding formula.”

“It is hurting you,” he said.

Last year, the board unanimously adopted resolutions asking the state to apply the formula used to determine its teacher allotment by grade level and by individual schools rather than districtwide. That would result in the school system being able to hire more teachers and reduce the burden on local taxpayers.

Also during the meeting, the county received its 2015 annual audit report showing that overall revenues exceeded expenditures by more than $2.9 million last year.

Crystal Roberts with Martin Starnes & Associates CPAs told the commissioners that they found no “significant deficiencies or weaknesses” in its internal controls.

The county’s available fund balance was $17.5 million as of June 30, 2015, which equals 20 percent of its budgeted expenditures and exceeds the state minimum requirement.

Picerno noted that while property tax revenues, which account for 62 percent of the total amount, actually decreased by about $1.5 million from 2014 to 2015, while sales tax revenues rose by more that $500,000.

“That is why we feel the sales tax is the way to go in funding our schools,” he said of its construction plan, which includes 10 projects with an estimated cost of $237 million.

Commissioner Randy Saunders pointed out that the largest portion of county spending, 37 percent, or $32.9 million, goes to education.

“That is our No. 1 economic driver,” he said of the school system. “To continue to improve ours has got to be our No. 1 priority. Hopefully the public will realize how important it is.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the report.

In other business:

* The board presented resolutions honoring the service of three recently retired employees of the Sheriff’s Office — Maj. Ricky Whitaker, Lt. Cathy Williams and Lt. Victor Moore.

Whitaker started with the department in 1972 as dispatcher and rose to chief deputy before stepping down to work for the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. He returned to the county in 2003 and worked in jail administration, helping oversee the move to the new detention center.

Picerno noted that Whitaker spent 45 years in public service.

Williams joined the department in 1987 as a patrol officer. She rose through the ranks, along the way becoming the first female in the criminal investigations divisions, the first to be a detective sergeant and the first female lieutenant, among others.

Moore had a 20-year career with the department, starting out as a part-time detention officer. He became a deputy in 2005 and was promoted to lieutenant.

Also, Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips presented the state Cardinal Award to retired telecommunicator Wilda Hussey for her 30-years of service.

“These men and women are making sure we are safe,” Picerno said. “I can’t say enough how much I admire these people. They put themselves out there.”

* The board expressed condolences to The Pilot on the death of Senior Writer Tom Embrey, who died early Sunday after suffering a heart attack on New Year’s Day.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

Community Summit To Review Funding Requests

via County Summit to Review Funding Requests | News | thepilot.com.

Moore County Commissioners’ Chairman Nick Picerno says he hopes the board will come out of its winter summit Thursday with a “game plan” on funding the school system’s building needs.

County officials have been working with financial advisers from Davenport & Co. on refining a possible funding plan first presented to the board in September at its annual Critical Issues Summit. It was predicated on voter approval of a quarter-cent sales tax increase that will be on the ballot for consideration March 15.

“We’ve got some ideas that are looking real good,” Picerno said Monday. “We’ve got to have a game plan.”

Davenport’s plan last fall showed how the county could come up with $198 million from a combination of existing funds, which includes the sales tax increase, and short-term loans toward funding the school board’s $237 master facilities plan that includes 10 projects.

Since then, the school board has revised its priorities, moving the Advanced Career Center high school to the top of the list, followed by new elementary schools for the Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Whispering Pines/Vass areas.

Expansions and renovations to ease crowding at Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools were moved down the list, and the three elementary schools were moved up. The idea is that the new career high school, which could be built on land on Airport Road across from Sandhills Community College, would take some of the enrollment pressure off the existing high schools, delaying the need for expansions. School officials say those campuses still will need to be renovated and updated at some point.

In its educational materials regarding the quarter-cent sales tax, the county says those revenues would enable the county to borrow money on a short-term basis initially to fund the top four projects — the new high school and three elementary schools — with an estimated cost of $119.3 million.

A quarter-cent increase in the sales tax is estimated to generate $2.2 million a year, which will likely grow annually over time as sales increase.

Picerno said the county has been meeting informally with school officials to get a better handle on the construction timeframes for its construction projects. But he cautioned that all of this is based on voters approving the referendum on the sales tax increase.

“This is also a permission-to-borrow question as well,” Picerno said. “The public needs to buy in on this.”

Picerno said the sales tax stream grows more than property tax revenues. He added that property taxpayers are also chipping in since the county has been setting aside a portion of its annual property tax surpluses each year for school capital needs.

Those surpluses are due to the county leaving the property tax rate higher than it should have been following the revaluation in 2007.

The county has accumulated $21.9 million in that capital reserve fund for school construction needs. The county would continue adding to that pot with future surpluses as well as new money that comes available as old debts are repaid.

Related to that, the commissioners will also discuss their own capital needs — a new courthouse in the next few years is chief among those needs — and its financial outlook for fiscal year 2017.

“The county will have needs as well,” Picerno said. “We can’t spend every dollar on schools.”

Also during the retreat, officials from the area’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) will have an opportunity to present a proposed plan that calls for doubling the county’s hotel room occupancy tax and using a portion of the additional revenues to build and operate a proposed $14 million sports complex south of Aberdeen.

Money from the higher tax would also bolster efforts to market the county’s golf industry, putting it on par with many of its competitors in the Southeast, officials say.

The CVB board approved the “Moore County Tourism Strategic Investment Plan” in October, but without the support of the area’s two largest resorts, Pinehurst Resort and Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, which objected to using room tax revenues as the main source of funding.

Under the plan adopted by the CVB, 80 percent of the revenues would be spent on marketing and the remainder on “product development,” which would include the sports complex.

Supporters say the complex would generate additional business for area hotels, especially during the slower times of the year, so the tourism industry does not have to depend solely on golf, which is more seasonal.

The CVB delayed presenting the plan to the commissioners late last year since it was still working out some of the financial details. Proponents were also working on more specific information regarding development costs, additional funding sources such as grants and issues regarding the use of the fields in the complex.

Picerno said this will be the first opportunity for the commissioners to hear about the proposal.

“The first plan we saw lost a lot of money in the first few years,” Picerno said. “Personally, it was just not feasible. They were going back to the drawing board. Hopefully they have done that.”

The N.C. General Assembly enacted a law last year that gives the commissioners the authority to double the room tax to 6 percent. The commissioners backed the legislation but made clear that the tourism industry must be united in the plan to use money from the room tax to help fund the sports complex.

The winter summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Rick Rhyne Public Safety Center in Carthage.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

Campain Will Lobby For Sales Tax Vote

via Campaign Will Lobby for Sales Tax Vote | News | thepilot.com.

County Commissioners’ Chairman Nick Picerno hopes the county will unite behind a proposed quarter-cent increase in the sales tax next March to help some of the school system’s most pressing construction needs.

“I don’t want this to be political,” Picerno said Tuesday morning. “I want to see us come together as a county to support this to improve the quality of our schools and give our kids the best opportunity to be successful.”

But the county itself is limited in its advocacy for the referendum that will appear on the March 15 ballot. The county can provide information to voters about the issue, but state law prohibits the county from “persuading” voters one way or another, Picerno said.

To that end, a local committee will be formed early next year to mount a lobbying campaign for the local referendum as well as the statewide $2 billion “Connect NC” bond issue, said local businessman George Little.

Little, who is chairman of the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees and vice chairman of Partners in Progress, said local leaders are in the early stages of forming a committee and filing paperwork. The committee will likely officials from the school system and SCC.

“I think the commissioners made the right decision,” he said of seeking voter approval of a sales tax increase rather than raising property taxes. “Any time we can do something like this without raising property taxes is a good thing. This is the better way to do it.”

The broader $2 billion state bond issue includes a Moore County component. If passed, $8.5 million for the Samarcand Law Enforcement Training Academy, $3.8 million would go to renovations at SCC and $428,250 would fund projects at Weymouth Woods State Natural Area in Southern Pines.

Little, who is also chairman of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, pointed out that tourists —through their local spending — would help the county fund its school needs. That will likely be one of the selling points in the campaign.

“That lessens the burden on local folks,” Little said. “We have all of these people coming into the county who will help us.”

Tourism spending in Moore County in 2014 — the year of the U.S. Open and Women’s Open in Pinehurst — topped $439 million, a figure some local leaders think was low given the impact of the golf championships.

And Picerno is quick to point out that property taxpayers have been contributing over the years toward helping meet school construction needs. Commissioners have maintained a higher tax rate over the last several years than is necessary to cover all its expenses.

“We’ve kept the excess funds and set them aside to provide money for this very purpose,” Picerno said. “So we have already laid that at the feet of the taxpayer. They already helping foot that bill.”

With the county running surpluses each year, commissioners voted several years ago to set aside a portion in a capital reserve fund. The county has built up $21.9 million in the fund. The commissioners, who generally abhor incurring long-term debt if they can avoid it, will use money from the fund, as well as existing funds to pay for school construction projects, in addition to money from the sales tax increase.

A quarter-cent increase in the sales tax is expected to generate about $2.2 million a year. That would enable the county to borrow money on a short-term basis to fund the top projects on the school board’s $237 million Master Facilities Plan. The top priorities include an Advanced Career Center high school and three new elementary schools.

Commissioners have made clear their opposition to going the traditional route of selling bonds and raising the property tax rate to pay for that debt — a strategy that has been employed successfully three times in the past 30 years — because of the massive amount of interest, which Picerno says “gets you nothing.”

Picerno said the sales tax referendum is more than just seeking permission for the quarter-cent increase.

“It is also a referendum to ask permission to borrow money,” he said. “We are going to have to borrow money to fix our schools. The sales tax increase gives us a huge stream to dedicate to that fully. I believe that with some short-term borrowing, we can do this with minimal interest payments.”

Picerno said the county is developing informational materials about the sales tax increase. As an individual, he is free to speak his mind and he said he is willing to do that with any group to explain the proposed tax increase.

“The truth is the best thing in politics,” he said. “This gives us our best chance to meet these needs.”