GCAE at commissioners' meeting

Guilford County Association of Educators set up a stand Thursday to hand out “work orders” for the Guilford County Board of Commissioners who were holding a public hearing on their budget.Group leader Todd Warren said members planned to speak at the public hearing to urge the county to fully fund the Guilford County Schools request. He said maintenance needs for the school system this year amount to $30 million just for basic upkeep and that too many schools are without air conditioning.

GREENSBORO — Guilford County officials heard Thursday from several dozen teachers and other school supporters urging them to provide millions of dollars in additional funding for school repairs and other needs.

Speakers told the Guilford County Board of Commissioners that the county administration’s proposed $212.7 million allotment for the schools was not sufficient to provide adequately for the system’s thousands of students.

Teachers spoke of poorly maintained and deteriorating buildings, and classrooms without heat in cold weather and air-conditioning in the summer.

“That’s a choice that we’re making. It’s not just happening; it’s a choice,” said Riley Driver, a teacher at Jamestown Middle School.

Those speaking on behalf of the schools and their importance to the community included Dot Kearns, who served as a commissioner and later as a school board member, and Action Greensboro representative Cecelia Thompson.

The teachers’ group Guilford County Association of Educators led the outcry, handing out mock-up “work orders” to fellow protesters aimed at encouraging the board to raise the tax rate, if necessary, to provide adequate support for the schools.

Todd Warren, Guilford teacher and educators association president, said that this year alone the schools had $30 million in basic maintenance needs that the current proposal does not address.

The budget recommended by county manager Marty Lawing would increase the school system’s current operating and capital funding by about $4.1 million. School leaders requested about $6 million more for capital maintenance and repair projects.

The board did not comment during the hearing or engage in debate about the issue after the hearing closed.

Instead, commissioners scheduled a work session Monday afternoon to consider Lawing’s recommended $627.4 million spending plan that includes school funding among other county services.

At the outset of Thursday’s meeting, the board tabled another major topic that had been on the evening’s agenda — providing money for the Cure Violence initiative to help Greensboro neighborhoods plagued by violent crime.

Based in Chicago, the nonprofit Cure Violence group relies on techniques to thwart assaults and killings that are similar to strategies that physicians use in fighting epidemic diseases.

Group leaders work as mediators to identify a community’s most violent offenders, then help them turn their lives around and away from violent lifestyles.

Commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston, who is a major advocate for the program, distributed violent crime statistics for 2018 and this year from the Greensboro Police Department and said he hoped the data would help his fellow commissioners focus on the need for such anti-violence measures.

Alston said the figures showed the majority of homicide victims were African American. For example, the report showed that in 2018, black residents accounted for 32 of Greensboro’s 35 homicide victims, he said — 91 percent of the victims.

In other action Thursday, the commissioners:

  • Approved next year’s budget of just more than $7 million for the Greensboro/Guilford Tourism Development Authority, which promotes the hospitality industry and travel to the area.

The authority receives much of its revenue from Guilford’s 3% occupancy tax, which makes the county government financially responsible for the group. Because of that, the commissioners must approve the authority’s annual budget before it can take effect.

  • Authorized $1.8 million to replace an HVAC system that heats, cools and ventilates Guilford’s public health building on East Green Drive in High Point.

The board awarded the contract to low bidder H.M. Kern Corp. of Greensboro. County staff said the building’s existing HVAC equipment is about 35 years old and “past its expected service life.”

  • Set aside an additional $5 million in the county’s current budget to cover higher-than-expected expenses from the county employee health plan. The board recently heard reports from insurance advisers about the need for revisions to rein in the plan’s increasing costs.
  • Gave the go-ahead on a $434,000 contract with Wake Forest University to continue a joint project with Guilford public health officials who are researching treatment for resistant forms of the venereal disease gonorrhea.

Money for the project comes from a grant awarded by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Extended by one year a $162,000 contract with WellPath to provide medical care for youth being held at the Guilford Juvenile Detention Center.

WellPath has provided services under contract at the detention center since July 2014.

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Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.

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