The dispute between Union County and its schools is not finished. Union County commissioners have decided to appeal the jury’s verdict that the county owes the district $91 million.
Union County commissioner Jonathan Thomas says the only way the county can afford to pay the schools is to significantly raise taxes.
“You go to court over a dispute for $10 million and you end up with a $91 million verdict. That certainly has the potential of un-stabilizing a very stable and prosperous county,” says Thomas.
That award is nearly a third of the county’s whole budget this year. Thomas says one way to pay it would be to take $27 million from savings and, then, come up with the rest by raising taxes.
“That, in and of itself, would have increased taxes 27.7 cent on the 100, which is a 42 percent tax increase,” says Thomas.
So commissioners say it makes sense to appeal.
School board Chairman Richard Yercheck was prepared for that.
“I’m a little disappointed that the commissioners don’t have the same faith in twelve jurors that everyone else has, but I’m not surprised,” says Yercheck.
He argues the county has plenty of money to cover the award without having to raise taxes.
The commission and school board have long argued over the amount of funding for schools. This year the school board asked for an additional $8 million above what commissioners ended up giving the district. So the county and district went to mediation and, when that failed, the schools took the county to court.
A jury decided the county had neglected its duty over several years to provide enough money to properly fund the school system. The award sets aside most of the money for building and maintenance projects.