By Stefanie Jackson – It was a “dream come true” Tuesday night for Northampton school board chairman William “Skip” Oakley when county supervisors unanimously approved borrowing nearly $29 million dollars to renovate Northampton High School and build a new addition.
“Let’s have a state-of-the-art school,” said David Kabler, a District 4 candidate for the Northampton board of supervisors and a real estate agent who believes the school improvements will attract families with young children to the county.
Nearly $4 million of the 20-year loan is interest and fees, leaving exactly $25 million for engineering and construction.
“This is the best rate there’s been in the last 20 years,” Supervisor John Coker said. “You’ve got to jump on it when you get it, because … you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Rates can go up just as fast as they can go down.”
Supervisor Oliver Bennett, a Northampton High School teacher, was invited to make the motion for the board to approve the resolution to borrow the money.
“I am very happy to be a part of this,” he said, but he also had some concerns.
Bennett advised Northampton “to take better care of our facility inside and out, because we’re ready to spend a lot of money.”
He wants to see positive change not only in the school building, but in the students, and he suggested the school board propose new policies regarding the dress code and use of electronic devices.
Coker congratulated his colleagues on a “great team effort” finding a way forward with the high school project.
“This proposal works for the county,” he said. “We have to borrow a lot of money, but … we’re spending it for a great reason, and I think that we’re going to end up with a great school.”
Coker also noted the improvements will be funded without a big tax increase.
The vote came on the heels of good financial news for both Northampton County and Northampton public schools.
Northampton County ended fiscal year 2019 with a budget surplus of more than $1 million that will be transferred to its rainy day fund.
Northampton schools ended FY 2019 with a budget surplus of more than $650,000 that will be added to its capital reserve fund.
Both the county and the school division are waiting for their FY 2019 financial records to be audited.