Union County Sen. Tommy Tucker wants moratorium on school board lawsuits against counties

05/24/2014 12:00 AM

06/12/2014 9:34 AM

A year after the Union County school board won a $91 million lawsuit against the county over budget funding, a state senator wants a two-year moratorium on similar suits.

The bill, proposed this week by Republican Sen. Tommy Tucker of Weddington, comes as county commissioners and school board members face another possible budget impasse.

“We’re on the edge of having another lawsuit,” Tucker said.

County commissioners are continuing to appeal last fall’s verdict even as they meet with the school board to deal with the budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1. Commissioners are considering whether to raise taxes by 13.2 percent to deal with school district funding, although it’s not known whether that would be enough to keep the school board from suing again.

The school board’s budget request included $97.7 million in capital expenses, a figure that encompassed most of the jury award. But commissioners indicated they would offer $19.5 million for capital funds.

Tucker stuck the measure into a House bill intended to study music therapy licensing. It’s unclear whether the measure will become law.

The bill, which would apply only to Union County, is headed in early June to the General Government committee that Tucker chairs.

If passed by the Senate, it would need approval from the House. The legislature’s short session is expected to end in early summer. The moratorium would go into effect once the bill is passed.

Union County commissioners Chairman Frank Aikmus called Tucker’s plan “long overdue.” He called it unconstitutional to shift taxing authority from elected representatives to a judge and jury.

School board Chairman Richard Yercheck said he had not seen Tucker’s plan yet but in general would oppose the moratorium concept.

Tucker, a former Union County commissioner, said he believes the sides can resolve disagreements short of going to court.

“Politics is about what’s possible,” he said. “You must reach consensus as elected officials.”

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