The proposition was clear three years ago for voters: Approve a $103 million bond referendum and Moore County Schools would build three new elementary schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst. The acceptance was overwhelming — 80 percent. To date, Aberdeen and Southern Pines are open, and Pinehurst is on track to open this summer. They’re beautiful schools and wonderful additions to our community.

But the good of that 2018 vote doesn’t end at the doors of those three schools. All those “yes” votes are also improving Carthage Elementary; Elise Middle School in Robbins; Sandhills Farm Life Elementary; Union Pines High School; Highfalls Elementary; and the Community Learning Center at Pinckney in Carthage.

All told, more than $2 million in improvements to other schools — totally unexpected yet totally real — has come from that vote. Even better, there’s more where that came from — $8.5 million more — and other schools could benefit.

A Real Opportunity ...

When Moore County sold the $103 million in bonds on the open market to investors, it received so-called “bond premiums” based on a number of factors. Consider it an extra credit “thank you” from investors. Aberdeen netted $2.38 million in bond premiums, of which commissioners spent $2 million last year for the above-mentioned projects. Southern Pines has $3.4 million in premiums; Pinehurst, $4.7 million.

The funds remain attached to each school, acting as a reserve for budget shortages. Between all three schools, the district is projecting a deficit of $1.08 million, but it has $2.1 million set aside to cover this hole — without applying bond premium funds.

MCS isn’t using the bond premiums because it doesn’t officially have “access” to the money. It belongs to the Board of Commissioners. County Manager Wayne Vest says those funds, in a separate savings account, “can be allocated for any project that fits the bond language that was on the ballot.”

That language permits construction of the three new schools AND “improving, expanding and renovating other public school facilities” — provided the Board of Education asks.

There are some who say these extra funds should go toward paying construction debt. Given the low cost of borrowing today, that seems a waste of a real opportunity. And there is plenty of opportunity.

... So Don’t Blow It

Two weeks ago, the Board of Education spent two hours wringing its hands over the district’s 37-item list of most urgent improvements. It includes virtually all schools and represents $8.4 million in projected costs. The items range from a new pump station at New Century Middle to a new track at North Moore and Pinecrest high schools.

The Pinecrest track has galvanized a lot of support from southern Moore — but not from Bob Levy, David Hensley and Philip Holmes, the three school board members whose districts all have students who flow into Pinecrest.

Holmes, who represents Aberdeen area schools, was aggrieved over the prospects of giving money to Pinecrest.

“It seems to me like every time we sell a school, we decide to buy something new and shiny,” said Holmes. “I just wonder why everything new and shiny goes to Pinecrest.”

Mr. Holmes, Moore County just spent $13 million renovating and expanding North Moore High School. The $1.3 million track repair for Pinecrest — where one in every six students attends — is the school’s sole project on the current priority list.

Regardless, the scramble for money is not as desperate as the Board of Education thinks. Presuming the $8.5 million remaining in bond premiums is not needed for their respective construction budgets, some or all of that money can be deployed to accomplish virtually all 37 items on this list.

Commissioners have already demonstrated the wisdom of this strategy. All they need to do is be asked — provided the Board of Education can agree to it.

(6) comments

Conrad Meyer

I find it curious that the list of projects just happens to add up to $8.4 million when the bond premium is $8.5 million. Coincidence? Or not?

If spending the bond premium on urgently needed repairs on other facilities delays another tax increase by a couple more years, I am all for it.

Barbara Misiaszek

Amen ! You get it. There's also a lot of money in sales taxes paid from those bond funds that will soon be returned from the state that can be used on that deferred maintenance.

John Misiaszek

Jim Tomashoff

John, let's just sit back and wait for Kent to tell us how stupid that 80% were. How we're building "gold-plated" schools and that he can build them for a fourth as much. How teachers are way over-paid. And that all the smart parents are pulling their kids out of "government" schools.

Kent Misegades

Sounds like you’re coming over to my side Jim! As long as Grade A charter schools like the Academy of Moore exist in the Sandhills, it is irresponsible to squander even more money on our C and D rated schools. Only people who have spent a lifetime at the government feed trough can advocate throwing good taxpayer money after bad.

Barbara Misiaszek

LOL , Jim, Unfortunately,Kent's responses really are not funny.

John Misiaszek

Jim Tomashoff

No they are not funny, but they are increasingly predictable. Same diatribes over and over about everything he hates, which are most things.

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