School Board Transfers Duties to County

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On Tuesday the Wake County Board of Education voted to give the Wake County Commissioners certain powers, including the purchasing of real estate and handling of workers’ compensation claims.

Commissioners extended the offer to take on such functions in April, with the rationale that the shift would eliminate duplication of services and save the district money.

Now that the school board has accepted the county’s offer, the county will identify and acquire sites for new schools. The school board will maintain the right to approve new sites.

If the school board decides not to require title insurance on new school sites, the measure could save the district an average of $20,000 a year in legal services costs.

Superintendent Tony Tata outlined his support for the transfer of real estate acquisition at a board meeting June 7. He would like to see the county manage facilities construction as well.

“Facilities construction has very little to do with teaching and learning,” he said. “For me, if we can get point to the point where we’re dividing some responsibility to do construction while building in protections, that’s okay. This is the beginning of that process … We’ll spend more time talking about student achievement and less time about things that don’t impact that.”

During the meeting, Board Member Kevin Hill cautioned that facilities construction is a bigger matter than site acquisition.

“Design has a tremendous impact on the classroom,” he said.

The vote Tuesday also gave the county the power to settle workers’ compensation claims up to $10,000. Anything more than that amount would have to be brought before the board for authorization.

Wake County will pay claims at a rate of no greater than $100 per hour for employees funded by federal and enterprise money. Enterprise employees include cafeteria workers, whose department makes money for the district.

The legal services agreement with the county is set for five years. Either party can exit the partnership at any time with 30 days’ notice.

School Board Member Keith Sutton cast the only vote against the measure.

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