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Economic realities delay new school
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Forsyth County News
Not that any of us particularly needed it, but the county school board’s decision earlier in the month to postpone construction of a planned school serves as a pointed reminder of the economy’s woeful condition.

On Oct. 15, board members voted unanimously to reject all construction bids, and in doing so postponed the building of Kelly Mill Elementary School, which had been planned to open in 2011. They cited current financial uncertainties as the reason for the delay, especially concerns about whether state funding will be available for building projects.

It’s easy to understand the board’s concerns. The staggering economy has resulted in reduced collections of state and local taxes, and governments at all levels are having to take extraordinary measures to provide services within the limits of severe financial constraints.

Starting a construction project with the anticipation of state funding next year was a gamble that local school leaders weren’t prepared to take. The decision by the superintendent and school board reflected sound fiscal responsibility.

And as board member Mike Dudgeon pointed out, there is more to a new school than just the construction costs. Once the doors open, the costs of operations are an ongoing expense that never goes away.

The necessity of postponing construction for now also points out the incredible difficulty of planning for future classroom needs in a rapidly growing area. In the past two years the school system has opened nine new schools, but the planning, forecasting and preparation for those schools goes back several more years.

The current economic downturn has had a dramatic impact on the housing market, family income, jobs and county growth. As a result, formulas that in the past have proven to be accurate in projecting student populations may have to be revisited and revised.

School leadership remains committed to construction of Kelly Mill as the county’s next elementary school. While it remains to be seen when that project will be financially feasible, delaying construction for now in light of funding uncertainties seems a prudent step to take.