The General Assembly’s watchdog agency, the Program Evaluation Division, has recommend that lawmakers ban school systems from suing counties over budget requests and instead force them to go through mediation.
That’s what happened in Union County five years ago. The school system sued over an $8 million dispute, and received a $91 million verdict – although that verdict was later overturned.
Union County school board chair Melissa Merrell was so opposed to the legal action that she ran for the board in 2014 and later voted to drop the lawsuit after the district spent nearly $2 million in legal fees. Still, she’s not sure it’s a good idea to ban all school systems from suing their local county commissions.
“Because I know that some counties in North Carolina do not provide local dollars for school districts. I can only speak for Union County that things did not work out as well as they thought it would.”
Merrell says the lawsuit created a lot of tension, making budget discussions difficult.
"We are still trying to repair those relationships today," she says in an interview with WFAE Morning Edition host Marshall Terry.