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FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2007
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Limestone considers consolidation
Board discusses potential solution to old buildings, lack of funding

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

In light of voters killing a proposed 1-cent sales tax on Tuesday, Limestone County Superintendent Barry Carroll suggested Thursday the school board may have to consider consolidating high schools.

The school board hoped to use the money generated from the tax to build elementary schools in the Elkmont, Clements and East Limestone high school areas.

Carroll emphasized that he wasn't recommending consol-idation, but saying it's a way
the board could deal with exploding growth and aging buildings for which it doesn't have the money.

The school board has $28 million in bond indebtedness and can't borrow any more for now.

The state-approved bond issue will probably only bring $7.3 million to Limestone County. That's not enough to fill the county's needs, Carroll said.

He said the school system could possibly get federal and state grants to pay for the
consolidation, building one high school in the north end and
one in the south end of the county.

"I don't know of any money available for bricks and mortar except for consolidation," Carroll said.

Carroll said the board could also consider paying off some bonds early or eliminating expenses like teacher units or extracurricular activities.

He said the school system can use half of state bond money to pay off debts.

"A Mobile superintendent tried to eliminate extracurricular activities several years ago and that caused an outcry from the citizens, who went back and passed another tax," Carroll said.

School board member John Wayne King said he prefers trying to pay off the debt first.

"A friend used to say, 'Never say never, but always say I'd druther now," King said. "We need to look at other options first before we consider consolidation."

Fellow board member Earl Glaze said Limestone County citizens are clear they won't approve any new taxes, so the board may have to consider consolidation.

"I don't like it, but it may be the way we have to go," Glaze said.

School board President Bryant Moss suggested using the state bond money with about $2.3 million the board has in reserves over the one-month's operating expenses the state requires the board have and another $1.8 in lieu of tax money that the school system gets from TVA to handle the issues it can.

Moss said he opposes consolidation because larger schools have more problems than small schools.

School board member James Shannon said he "would never vote for consolidation unless something awfully big changes my mind."

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