Baldwin County Schools officials approached the Baldwin County Commission this week with a plan for short-term lending that would allow the school system to construct new schools in the county for …
Baldwin County Schools officials approached the Baldwin County Commission this week with a plan for short-term lending that would allow the school system to construct new schools in the county for the first time since 2009.
Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the plan would help the system address the biggest issue most of Baldwin County is facing: growth.
“We’re basically trying to get even with or even ahead of the growth,” Tyler said. “We’ve got some projects identified for future growth and additions that we think will help us be able to address this massive growth we’ve continued to see.”
The plan would create a four year $60 million construction loan that the school system could draw down on as needed for various projects.
“As we finalize our construction plan and get the timelines set, we will probably draw the money down in three to four installments,” Baldwin County Schools CFO John Wilson said.
The loan would carry an interest rate between 1.7 to 1.88 percent and would require the school system to pledge to repay $15 million per year over the four year period.
Officials said if the first four year plan worked, it could lead to a 12-year construction master plan that could see $180 million of school construction across the county.
An initial seven to nine projects have been identified as priorities under this new plan, including a new elementary school to be built somewhere in the Eastern Shore area.
“We know we need a new elementary school on the Eastern Shore,” Wilson said. “We know that, and with this plan, we can make that a possibility.”
Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said he had some concerns about the vague details shared about the plan and wanted to make sure the system was focused on the job of educating the county’s children.
“We need to be spending money to get the output of education together,” Dorsey said. “I don’t give a crap about how nice the buildings look. I want output and I want to see specific plans.”
Tyler said the system has taken several steps to address academic concerns since he took over as superintendent, including hiring an academic dean for the system and implementing a successful guided reading program for the county’s elementary schools.
Commissioner Skip Gruber said he felt the financial plan was a fantastic idea.
“It gives the school system stability going into the future,” Gruber said. “I think this is going to work out for the best.”
Commission Chairman Chris Elliott said he felt the loan model the school system was proposing was a good idea.
“The construction loan model is right,” Elliott said. “I think this is good, conservative management and living within your means, which is what the voters have told you to do over and over again. It’s still addressing the issues of growth in a term that is palatable.”
School system officials said they would also have several public meetings to inform county residents and hear ideas and feedback.
County and school system officials said they would continue to work out the final details of the plan and expect it to be voted on by both the commission and the school board at future meetings.