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#NOforNow

 

Take Back Our Schools-GCS and Guilford County taxpayers have justifiable apprehensions about the $1.7 Billion School Bond. Although we, at Take Back Our Schools, are in full support of construction and renovations needs for Guilford County Schools (“GCS”), we are not in support of a dubious bond that binds Guilford County taxpayers without accountability or transparency by those responsible for allocating funds.

 

Considering the current Superintendent has announced her resignation, via a press conference and press release back in January, 2022, with intentions to leave at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, and a change of up to 5 Board of Education (“BOE”) seats and 5 County Commissioner (“BOCC”) seats this November, it would be prudent to wait until the new boards are elected and new Superintendent hired to revisit immediate construction needs vs. long-term needs.

 

We, at Take Back Our Schools, have done extensive research to have a better understanding of how GCS and the BOE have applied funds and bonds in the past. Due to the BOE and GCS Administration’s lack of transparency and delayed information via public records request, it has proven difficult to get straight answers.

 

Our group of community volunteers has discovered several misappropriations and wasteful spending of school funds and would like detailed clarity once the new school board has been sworn in and a new Superintendent has been hired.

 

Until then, we, the Guilford County taxpayers, intend to vote NO on the $1.7 Billion School Bond. #NOforNow

 

Take Back Our Schools has shared evidence-based information with the Guilford County taxpayers via the Take Back Our Schools website, social media, monthly meetings, Letter to the Editor, and press releases to name a few. Based on the feedback from our audience, Guilford County taxpayers are most concerned with the following:

 

$300M School Bond. A $300 Million school bond was passed from the 2020 election, however, projects slated from that bond have changed, schematic designs are still being evaluated and projects are already over budget before even breaking ground. It would be irresponsible for Guilford County taxpayers to approve a $1.7 Billion school bond when the last school bond has yet to be fully budgeted and encumbered. In addition, there is questionable spending from the $300 Million bond that needs clarification. https://www.gcsnc.com/Bond2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Financial Accountability. In regards to the $300 Million bond from the 2020 election, Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), Angie Henry, stated “About $24 Million was spent on project management, and design and some early site work possibly.”  Based on professional evaluations, $24 Million is an exorbitant amount of money to spend on design and site work. The CFO uses words such as “about”, “possibly”, “suspect”, “still mostly”, “a lot of dollars” to describe how funds have been received, transferred and encumbered. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Kiser Middle School. From the $300 Million bond, $55 Million is allocated for Kiser Middle School. However, Superintendent Contreras anticipates the cost to be 2 to 3 times higher. Inflation alone cannot be used as an excuse. The design of the school seems to be a problematic reason for going over budget—not to mention the “innovative” school design poses questions of maintenance and school safety.

 

Misplaced Priorities. GCS has reallocated $700,000 maintenance budget for a recording studio at one of the magnet schools. While many school buildings are in much needed maintenance, GCS has prioritized money for non-essentials. https://www.gcsnc.com/cms/lib/NC01910393/Centricity/Domain/234/2021-08-19%20Retreat%20Minutes.pdf

Emergency Powers. On March 13, 2020, the BOE voted to give the Superintendent emergency. To this date, the Superintendent still has emergency powers indefinitely until Governor Cooper’s emergency powers are terminated.  By giving emergency powers to the Superintendent eliminates representation by the Board of Education. Guilford County residents have no representation. https://www.gcsnc.com/cms/lib/NC01910393/Centricity/Domain/234/2020-03-13%20Emergency%20Meeting%20Minutes.pdf

Abusing Authority. Under Dr. Contreras leadership, the BOE meeting rooms were remodeled during COVID shutdowns. Dr. Contreras made this unilateral decision using emergency powers. She did not inform the Board nor sought Board approval. BOE members were not even aware the BOE meeting rooms were being remodeled until after it was completed, when the BOE returned to in-person meetings. The cost to remodel the Board rooms was $432,878. [Note what powers were given to the Superintendent during the March 13, 2020 Emergency BOE meeting]: https://www.gcsnc.com/cms/lib/NC01910393/Centricity/Domain/234/2020-03-13%20Emergency%20Meeting%20Minutes.pdf

Budgeting and Fiscal Management. 6 of the 9 BOE members voted to give the Superintendent approval up $500,000 decision-making power on construction and/or repair contracts without Board approval. This removes checks and balances by the BOE, while giving the superintendent unsupervised allocation of taxpayers’ money up to $500,000.

https://greensboro101.com/board-approves-budgeting-and-fiscal-management-policy/

Lottery Funds. The Superintendent and the BOE have agreed to allow the BOCC to apply $87.5 Million of NC Lottery funds (specifically, the Public School Building Capital Funds) towards indebtedness, instead of using it for capital needs such as construction and renovations. CFO Henry has cited a “verbal agreement” between the BOE and the BOCC to allow these funds to be applied to debt service. Mind you, these funds are “free money” and do not require a local match to spend—they just need to fund existing capital needs. [Note: In the last 6 years, since Contreras became Superintendent, there has not been one project listed on this report for GCS!] Refer to pages: 154-160: https://www.dpi.nc.gov/media/6769/download?attachment

Community Center over Safety and Security: GCS received $307,571,999 in ARP ESSER funds (federal COVID-relief). The Superintendent and the BOE have allocated $35 Million dollars of ESSER funds for a new "community center." However, the Superintendent is not satisfied with the $35 Million budget that only affords a 88,000 sq ft building. She suggested reallocating $20 Million of ESSER funds slated for safety and security to fund a larger community center. Keep in mind, ESSER funds can also be used for HVAC and roof repairs, but it seems this administration would choose to fund a community center over funding the needs of school buildings. 

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DISTRIBUTION OF NC EDUCATION LOTTERY FUNDS

 

Guilford County residents and GCS Families, are you paying attention?

Since 2007, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) and the Guilford County Board of Education (BOE) have been applying NC Lottery Funds to debt service (aka school bond debt). Per GCS Chief Financial Officer, Angie Henry, this practice is due to a “verbal agreement” between the BOCC and the BOE. The amount of money in question totals over $87.5M. Since 2016, under the helm of Superintendent Sharon Contreras, over $28.5M dollars have been applied to debt service—per Contreras’ and Henry’s recommendation (via Memorandum) to the BOE!
 

Per the North Carolina Department of Instruction (NC DPI) Manual Public School Building Capital Fund (PSBCF), Lottery Funds do not require a local dollar match and can be used for capital needs, including the purchase of land and “construction” (i.e. renovations, additions, new buildings, and infrastructure to serve educational facilities). Further, Article 38A of the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) outlines how these funds are spent. Per N.C.G.S. 115C-546.1, “[t]he Fund (“PSBCF”) shall be used to assist county governments in meeting their public school building capital needs.” Per N.C.G.S. 115C-546.2(b), outlines qualifying capital outlay needs, and states, “In the event, a county finds that it does not need all or part of the funds allocated to it for capital outlay projects…the unneeded funds allocated to the county may be used to retire any indebtedness incurred by the county for public school facilities.”
 

So, I ask you: Why has the BOCC required the BOE to release Lottery Funds to satisfy debt service, when there are obviously existing capital needs within the school district? By signing the NC DPI PSBCF North Carolina Education Lottery Application, in order to have Lottery Fund monies released and applied to debt service, both BOCC and BOE are declaring not a single capital need exists for GCS, making both the BOCC, BOE, Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer complicit in defrauding GCS students, families, teachers and taxpayers of eligible monies to fix existing issues within schools—all so Guilford County can maintain a AAA credit rating and take out more debt? 
 

And, another observation: The Lottery Funds for the 2020-2021 school year were applied to debt service, yet BOE meeting minutes does not show the BOE members ever voted on or approved the release of lottery funds—so, who authorized this transaction? Was it Contreras? One thing’s for certain—Board Chair, Deena Hayes-Greene, the signature would have to appear on the NC DPI application in order for funds to be released to the BOCC. 
 

Again, GC residents and GCS Families, are you paying attention? Who is going to hold these individuals accountable for their damaging decisions? For years, Contreras has been declaring the students are her number one priority—and yet continues to cry how underfunded the schools are—yet she recommended over $28.5M of Lottery Funds (basically free money) over the last six years applied to debt service… Why??

We need—and demand—accountability and transparency NOW!
 

Signed,

Krisdena Reeser, GCS Parent/Guilford County Resident

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It was because of GCS agreeing to follow the NC toolkit that they received money for keeping our kids in masks.

TONS of data and information about GCS! Educate yourself on what is really going on. Our schools have received more money every year since 2016. Click on photos to learn more!

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HP Enterprise 5/6/2022 -

GUILFORD COUNTY — Leaders of Guilford County would need $50 million more in revenue each year through 2038 to pay off an ambitious $1.7 billion bond package to transform Guilford County Schools for decades to come, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners was told during a work session Thursday afternoon.

County budget staff presented details on how much it would cost to retire the $1.7 billion bond package if voters approve the referendum issue in the spring primary. Early voting is taking place now leading up to primary election day May 17.

The other referendum issue before county primary voters is a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase.

If voters approve both referendum measures, the quarter-cent sales tax increase would generate an estimated $20 million to $22 million each year, county budget staff told the commissioners. The extra sales tax would equate to 3 cents per $100 valuation of property tax.

County budget staff indicated property tax revenues would make up the bulk of the remaining additional $30 million needed each year, equating to a little more than 4 cents per $100 valuation.

If voters approve the $1.7 billion bond package but reject the sales tax increase, the additional money would have to come from existing county revenue sources.

The discussion about paying off the bond package takes place as the commissioners are deciding where to set the property tax rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year after an unprecedented increase in property values from the county’s first revaluation in five years. County Tax Director Ben Chavis told the commissioners during the work session that the total tax base of Guilford County would expand from $54.4 billion for the current fiscal year to between $68.6 billion to $69.6 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

Guilford County property owners now pay 73.05 cents per $100 valuation. County staff told the commissioners that a revenue neutral rate of 59.54 cents would take revaluation into account and leave property tax bills roughly the same as now, generating an extra $6.5 million in revenue from the growth of Guilford County during the past year.

If commissioners left the rate at the current level of 73.05 cents, it would generate an additional $92 million in property tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. But tax bills would increase significantly because of the impact of revaluation on property values and the levy based on the new values.

Last month, the commissioners voted to lower the county property tax rate at least 3 cents if voters approve the quarter-cent county sales tax increase.

Before the discussion about paying for the $1.7 billion bond package, leaders of Guilford County Schools and Guilford Technical Community College made their case to receive more funding for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.

County schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras presented her proposed school district budget that she rolled out last month at a Guilford County Board of Education meeting. The superintendent is seeking an additional $25.7 million from the commissioners, which county staff indicated is an 11% increase.

The majority of the additional operating budget revenue — $18.75 million — would go toward pay supplements for school district staff. The school board is expected to vote on the superintendent’s proposed budget at its next meeting at 6 p.m. May 10 at the school district central office at 712 N. Eugene St. in Greensboro.

The county portion of funding to the school system for the upcoming fiscal year would increase to $254.9 million. Local funding, if approved by the commissioners, would account for 25.3% of the school district’s proposed operating budget.

 

LOTTERY FUNDS PART I

🚨We will be posting a series of videos exploring the application of lottery funds to debt service. The first video clip is from the 9/27/2018 GCS Board of Education meeting.

During the discussion of Lottery Funds:

✅Bellamy Small questions the process of releasing lottery funds to Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for application to debt service. Her concerns about these funds are very valid. 

✅Garrett recalls the origins of this practice, indicating the practice involves an agreement between the BOE and BOCC to payback debt services

✅Board Atty interrupts conversation, forcing a vote on the issue. 

✅Tillman dances around issue, trying to justify his reasoning for supporting vote

✅Cashwell asks CFO Henry some very direct questions responsibility of debt repayment and whether or not the Board of Education has ever denied the request. 

✅Welborn comments about changes in the allocation lottery funds, how the lottery preys on the very families it intends to help, and monies need to be 

✅McGregor uses recession as reason for BOCC-BOE agreement 

✅Hayes does not contribute anything to conversation

Watch, listen, learn and form your own opinion... 

LOTTERY FUNDS, PART II

9/10/2019 Board of Education Meeting Lottery Funds Discussion:

A NC Lottery Fund primer—Listen and learn!

✅Gladden asks some very pointed questions regarding lottery funds, including: why BOE releases funds to BOCC for debt service; he questions the relevance of this practice and whether or not practice should continue; he also indicates he’s requested the BOE-BOCC agreement numerous times without resolution; he requests a meeting between the Superintendent, CFO, Board Attorney to meet with the Board of County Commissioners, BOCC Attorney and the issuance of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the outcome of meeting/discussion; he indicates many school districts keep monies and do not release to their County Commissioners for debt service.

✅CFO Henry states the conversation about lottery funds monies being used for debt service took place “many Boards ago.” When further pressed by Gladden, she states there was never a written agreement, but a “verbal agreement”. She provides a bit of background on process.

✅Sharpe questions the bond balance and the longevity of the BOE-BOCC lottery fund agreement

✅Bellamy Small asks for accounting of outstanding bond debt and lottery monies applied to debt service—states information was requested last year; She mentions renegotiating lottery fund agreement so GCS can retain monies to address capital needs.

✅Superintendent Contreras is overheard saying it’s the “will of the Board”

✅McGregor expresses concern about approving lottery fund application without clarity on the BOE-BOCC agreement

✅Welborn mentions how the lottery targets/exploits the very people it is slated to help—low-income families; she also expresses concerns about tabling Lottery Fund vote and its impact on BOCC budget.

✅Hayes reads article of GCS website. Find it here: https://www.gcsnc.com/Page/19754

At the end of the meeting, the Board votes “to table this item (“2019-20 Lottery Funds”) and authorize the Chair of the Board of Education, Superintendent and Board Attorney to hold discussions with the Chair of the Board of Commissioners, County Manager and County Attorney to discuss the history of the agreement, how the lottery funds have been disbursed and to construct and MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) related to the distribution of lottery funds”. Motion was passed unanimously, 9 to 0.

QUESTIONS:

🚨 Did Superintendent, Board Chair and Board Attorney meet with the Board of Commissioners, County Manager and County Attorney as directed?

🚨 Was an MOU constructed per Board direction?

LOTTERY FUNDS, PART III
11/12/2019 GCS Board of Education meeting:
✅Chairperson Hayes calls on CFO Henry to present information obtained from "talks" with the BOCC. 
✅Bellamy Small continues to push for keeping all of the funds within GCS. Inquires about negotiating with BOCC to keeping a portion (20%) without recourse.
✅CFO Henry indicates "it's a discussion we need to have" and to start now in discussing 2020-21 lottery funds. Henry indicates the $4.75M for 2019-20 was already decided by the BOCC to be applied to debt service for current year and indicates conversations need to start now for the 2020-21 lottery funds.
✅Bellamy Small explains Education Lottery monies go directly to BOCC, not GCS. She reasserts the importance of having a discussion with BOCC regarding giving GCS a portion of monies to address capital needs.
✅Henry cites NC General Statute regarding lottery funds... and eludes to the fact the lottery funds cannot be released for debt service without GCS declaring a "no need finding" for a given school year. She impresses upon the Board to begin discussions with BOCC for the 2020-21 lottery funds due to the fact there are existing capital needs to be addressed within the district.
OBSERVATIONS
⁉️Did the Superintendent, Board Chair and Board Attorney meet wit the Board of Commissioners, County Atty and County Manager as directed by BOE vote on 9/10/2019?
⁉️Where’s the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from this meeting, also directed in same BOE vote on 9/10/2019??

LOTTERY FUNDS PART IV

10/19/2021 GCS Board of Education Meeting Lotter Discussion:

✅McGregor reads the 2021-22 lottery application and indicates the voting on the Lottery Fund Application is done annually.

✅Bellamy Small provides her justification for not supporting the Lottery Fund application. She reinforces her belief monies should come directly to the schools to address existing school capital needs. Claims her and Henry researched lottery funds and found 3 states who actually give monies directly to the schools. Bellamy Small believes lottery funds belong to GCS and could help with deferred maintenance. She expresses her concerns how long it will take to build schools and how long GCS has paying down the debt. She would like to ask the BOCC for maintenance.

✅Sharpe inquiries about Guilford County outstanding bond debt.

✅Henry provides and outstanding bonds paying on 6/30/2020 was $693.8M and confirms not all related to schools⁉️

✅Welborn asks how to verify $4.75M is going towards school debt vs. other bond debt⁉️

✅Henry provides per BOCC budget, the 2022 school year $93.2M paying in debt service (principal + interest this year), stating $68.5M related to GCS, but it does not break out by outstanding bond balances.

✅Welborn states there should be a better way to identify the balance. Requests payout information.

✅Henry indicates she could ask, and dances around issues, stating the use of General Obligation (GO) bond may complicate matters. Restates total bonds payable at 6/30/2020 $693.8M figure⁉️

✅Welborn asks if GCS would ever know if bond debt was paid off.

✅Henry states County amortizes bonds every 20 years with the last voter approved bonds in 2008. 
Atty Wilson counters with 2020 vote and Henry indicates funds are not yet secured. Henry indicates she could not verify last sale, but indicates it would be from the last approved date + 20 years.

✅Tillman questions when issuance of $300M for 2020 bond will happen.

✅Henry states decision is up to BOCC. Approved project ordinances, secures funding in multiples ways, try to take advantage of interests as cost-savings.

✅Atty Wilson tries to explain how the approve bond dollars are secured/spent, but was rudely interrupted by McGregor.

✅Welborn need to go back to state to get more lottery money. Feels GCS is getting short changed. Says state sold this as building schools. Can point fingers at BOCC, but state is to blame. What little funds GCS receives doesn't help a whole lot.

✅Jenkins moved item. Irby seconded it. McGregor asks to note her as an "I". ⁉️ Vote to approve lottery funds application passes to 8 to 1.

OBSERVATIONS

- If the BOE votes annually on the NCDPI Lottery Fund application, where's the vote for the 2020-21 NC DPI Lottery Fund application?

- How did Board Chair Deena Hayes sign the NC DPI Lottery Fund application without Board vote/approval? Per NC DPI Public School Building Capital Fund Report, the application was received on 3/29/2021 to release $4.75M in lottery funds to the BOCC for debt service? What/Who gives Deena Hayes the authority to do this?

- Why does McGregor abstain from voting on the release of Lottery Funds to the BOCC?

- How is it CFO Henry does not have the necessary bond numbers and information the BOE members continually as for year after year?

LOTTERY FUNDS, PART V

3/8/2022 BOE Meeting Legislative Agenda discussion:

🚨Watch the exchange between the GCS BOE, Attorney, Superintendent, and GCS CFO regarding the discussion of the 2021-22 Lottery Fund application. Note the following:

✅Sharpe begins discussion about the 2021-22 Lottery Funds. She inquires when the first time lottery funds were used to retire debt. Once she confirms the BOE must vote on the Lottery Fund application yearly, she inquires about the 2020-21 Lottery Fund applications, as she does not recall voting on it.⁉️

✅BOE Chair Hayes' response to Sharpe's questioning was she did not remember when applying lottery funds to debt service began, stating "we had so much discussion 4 years ago". She proceeds to says since she has been on the board, the BOE approved the Lottery Fund application "the last 3 years".

✅Contreras states former Council Member Garrett explained that "some agreement was made years ago"⁉️

✅Atty Jill Wilson does not recall the first time lottery funds were applied to debt service, but confirms a yearly vote is required to release funds.⁉️

✅Welborn confirms it was done in 2008, but does not recall first time lottery funds were applied to debt service were approved.

✅CFO Henry confirms a yearly vote is required by NC DPI to release lottery funds for debt service and confirms $4.75M is the amount approve since a reduction in 2011. The explanation Henry provides to Tillman regarding lottery funds is inaccurate.⁉️

✅Tillman asks about state law regarding the Lottery Fund and the need to address issue with state. 

OBSERVATIONS

🚨Since the Superintendent and the CFO approval of the Lottery Funds, shouldn't they INVESTIGATE and VERIFY whether an agreement actually exists?

⁉️What happened to the 2020-21 NC DPI Lottery Fund application⁉️ The BOCC approved it on their end 8/20/2020, but it never appears on the BOE Agenda from 8/20/20-3/29/21, yet the NC DPI shows they received a signed application on 3/29/21--which has to have both the BOCC and BOE Board Chairs' signatures to release funds for debt service. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN⁉️ Who authorized Board Chair Deena Hayes to sign off on the Lottery Fund application WITHOUT approval/direction of her Board⁉️

🚨Did GCS CFO Henry ever provide BOE member Sharpe with the information she requested⁉️WHO is responsible to ensure GCS personnel follow up with Board requests/direction?

🚨Recall CFO Henry has stated several times during Lottery Fund discussions that the BOE needs to start discussions with the BOCC regarding utilitzing funds for existing capital needs, yet, time and time again, this never takes place? WHY⁉️

 

$10.1M INSURANCE SETTLEMENT
✅Did you know that GCS received only $10.1M Ins settlement due to the poor condition of these school buildings?  














✅Is it a coincidence that an arson fire expedited the demolition of Peeler Open? Arson speeds up demolition timeline for Peeler Elementary in Greensboro. 









✅Do you know the Superintendent is on record saying the $10.1M would be applied to the construction of the Hampton-Peeler school: 
















 Where did the $10.1M in insurance monies go?

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