School board’s infrastructure ‘wish list’ tops $12 million

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Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

From new windows at Macon Middle School, to a new football field at Franklin High School, the capital infrastructure needs within Macon County Schools continue to grow.

Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin presented members of the Board of Education with a complete list of capital outlay requests for the entire district last Thursday at the first budget session for the upcoming fiscal year. Each school’s principal submitted a list of needs and wants to the central office totaling $12,446,239 for the entire district. The bulk of that comes in at $9 million for complete renovations and rebuilds of the Franklin High School Fine Arts Center ($4 million), the Franklin High School Auxiliary Gym ($3 million), and drainage and parking lot and football field at Franklin High School ($2 million).

Dr. Baldwin said that several of the figures given to arrive at the $12,446,239 were estimates, several of which were to start projects, such as $350,000 needed for window repairs at Franklin High School and Macon Middle School, but doesn’t even come close to completing all the work actually needed to address issues.

Each school in the district had capital outlay needs identified for a total of 76 projects or needs highlighted. While the bulk of the request is for infrastructure repairs, the $12 million also includes a request for funding for technology and replacement plans, new vehicles for the district such as an activity bus,  and furniture needs such as floor scrubbers and new water fountains.

Dr. Baldwin and the Board of Education said several of the needs within the district are currently in limbo, pending long term planning with county commissioners. The district has warned for several years that Franklin High School is reaching its breaking point and either a significant investment of millions of dollars needs to be made in the existing facility, or a new facility needs to be built. Macon County just completed a Capital Improvement Plan that looks at all county infrastructure needs over the next five years, one of which is a new high school. If the school system plans to build a new high school in the near future, the $10 million needed for different things at Franklin High School wouldn’t be needed, significantly reducing the school system’s capital outlay requests this fiscal year.

The same goes for repairs needed at Macon Middle School. Aside from Franklin High School, both the Macon County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education agree that the middle school is at a crossroads and needs a complete overhaul and renovation to be able to best serve students. Looking at Macon Middle School and Franklin High School needs separately, the central office could have more money available for other needs in the district.

The Board of Education is now tasked with evaluating all of the requests made by each school and prioritizing the needs. In the past, the board of education has looked at safety concerns and immediate needs and prioritized requests based on those factors. After the board of education prioritizes the requests, a final capital outlay budget request will be submitted to county commissioners for consideration.

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