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Union Co. commissioners make new offer to settle school board lawsuit

Union County commissioners have made another offer to settle a budget funding lawsuit it lost to the school district, which resulted in a $91 million jury award.

Commissioners unanimously voted this week to offer an $11.2 million deal in exchange for dropping their appeal in the case.

The school board had sued the county to receive additional budget funds, and at the end of a two-month trial in October, a county jury stunned both sides with the size of the award. Commissioners promptly appealed.

County leaders said they don’t have $91 million and would need to drastically raise taxes or cut services to accommodate the award.

Commissioner Frank Aikmus, the new board chair, said Tuesday he hoped that if nothing else, the latest move would prompt communication between the two boards and serve as an opening for the school board to make a counter offer.

Relations between the boards have remained tense throughout much of the year.

School board chair Richard Yercheck said his board would “thoughtfully consider what is best for the children of Union County” when reviewing the offer.

In October, commissioners proposed a $9.4 million deal and offered to pay the board’s legal fees up to $450,000 in exchange for dropping their appeal. That plan was rejected, Yercheck said, “because it wasn’t $91 million.”

In the most recent offer, the board would again offer $9.4 million for the district’s roofing needs that were identified during the trial. The board also offered about $1.8 million to provide for supplemental teacher pay, with an average increase of $561 per teacher.

Aikmus noted that commissioners were offering raises for teachers even though teacher salaries are a state function. He said the board was listening to concerns raised at their meetings by parents and teachers.

Many people speaking at those meetings, however, simply want the board to drop the appeal.

Commissioners also urged the school board to use another $761,451 that the district had received from the county to provide raises for custodians, cafeteria workers and other employees. Those funds represent the difference in real estate and personal property tax revenue budgeted for the district and the actual amount of money generated by the tax.

Commissioners also noted they previously appropriated nearly $8.4 million for the district’s capital needs.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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