Union County school board, commissioners to hold joint budget meeting Monday

The Union County school board and county commissioners will hold a joint meeting Monday to discuss a budget plan where the two sides remain far apart.

The 2 p.m. meeting will come several hours before commissioners hold a public hearing on the school board’s 2015-16 budget request. By that time, county staff will have recommended to commissioners how they think the request should be handled.

Commissioners last week asked for a joint meeting after the two sides couldn’t agree on the amount of capital funding the school board is seeking.

The school board asked for $104 million in operating expenses, a 20 percent increase over the current year. The board also said it wants $177 million in capital funds, most of which would be part of a bond referendum.

But the county said it saw two budget scenarios in the district’s capital request that ranged between nearly $35 million and up to $393 million. The school district said the $393-million figure represents what it needs over eight years.

Commissioners also voted last week to spend up to $100,000 for a Charlotte law firm to represent them if the school board sues the county over the budget this year.

Several days after that vote, school board chairman John Collins stated that the board has not directed its lawyers to gear up for litigation over the budget. His statement came as the district announced it was ending its lawsuit over the 2013-14 budget.

In that case, the district won a $91 million judgment against the county, which was unanimously overturned by the N.C. Court of Appeals in April.

The court also rejected the school board’s request for a rehearing, and after those two successive legal defeats, the district moved to formally withdraw its lawsuit. Collins stated he hoped the move would strengthen the school board’s relationship with the county.

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Twitter: @abell