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The Fight of Our Lives–Harnett County Schools

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The Fight of Our Lives–Harnett County Schools

The Fight of Our Lives–Harnett County Schools
By Vice Chairman Gary A. House
I have been very fortunate that my children have always attended school in Eastern Harnett County.  We have have never experienced overcrowding or other problems in our school district.  There have been occasions when there were not enough books to go around and teachers had to copy assignments from a book.  But overall, my children have received a quality education in the Harnett County School System.
My Commissioner district also covers the Overhills Schools and the Western Harnett Schools.  I have received numerous calls over the years concerning overcrowding, lack of books and lockers, teacher retention, traffic, etc.  The calls have escalated this year. I have always listened to anyone who has called.
Harnett County is still primarily a rural county that has recently seen a massive influx of people due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).  Uncontrolled growth from lots subdivided almost a decade ago has created many issues in our school system.  We simply do not have enough tax base to build all of the schools needed right now.  I often hear that with the tax money coming from all of the new houses that there should be plenty of money to build new schools.  It does not work that way.  The County actually spends more to educate students than it collects on the property taxes of the new homes.
Commercial and industrial growth provides the tax base necessary to build the schools.  Retail growth also provides sales tax revenue to add to the coffers to build schools.
Up until a few years ago, I, like many others, believed that the federal government was coming with a satchel of money to assist the county with the influx of children brought to us by BRAC.  It is fair to say that most of us in county government was misled.  No satchel of money ever made it to Harnett County.  The commercial and retail growth is coming but  it is not coming on a locomotive.
The effects of this influx of students on the Harnett County School System with a major dilemma in educating our youth.  The children in Southern, Western, Northern and Central Harnett County deserve the same opportunities and the same environment that my children in Eastern Harnett County have had.  They deserve to go to school in a safe environment conducive to learning.  And that my friends is an undisputed fact.
Recognizing that the we are going to have to tackle these issues ourselves, I recently made a motion to put the overage from last year’s budget into a capital reserve fund of school construction, repair and renovation which turned out to be $22 million.  Also, I made the motion that the newly passed 1/4 cent sales tax increase go into this fund for schools as well.
I realize that this is a small drop in the bucket for our many needs.  For that reason, I have asked the county manager to bring the commissioners information about holding a bond referendum for the purpose of constructing schools.
I was extremely disappointed but  probably more shocked today when I learned that at least one of my colleagues may renege on putting the $22 million overage into this fund for the school system.
Friends, I do believe we may be in the fight of our lives to provide the education that our children deserve.

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