The Guilford County Board of Commissioners broke out into an all out verbal war before the board voted to approve a motion to start the process to place a school bond referendum of up to $300 million on the ballot in November.
The highly uncomfortable discussion at the Thursday, May 21 meeting included Commission Skip Alston hurling strong personal insults at Republican commissioners, and, though the commissioners never reached the level of shouting at one another, it was as brutal an argument as the commissioners have had in years.
The agenda item that started the war was a request by the Guilford County Board of Education for the Board of Commissioners to put a $1.6 billion bond referendum on the November ballot. The five Republican county commissioners – a majority of the nine-member board – had clearly decided before the meeting that the board would approve a maximum bond amount of $300 million.
Before the motion was approved on a 6-to-3 vote, Alston led the charge against the Republicans. Alston had hoped the board would approve a bond referendum for a maximum of $1.6 billion – or, in truth, at least $800 million or $900 million.
Commissioner Alan Branson made the motion for $300 million, which set off Alston who called the motion a total insult to the school system and the students it serves.
“Shame on you,” Alston said, adding that it the motion showed Branson “didn’t give a damn” about the county’s school children.
Alston added that the motion had been seconded, so clearly the Republicans had reached that agreement since they always act in unison and never broke ranks. He also said he couldn’t believe the Republicans were supporting the motion “with a straight face.”
Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, attending the meeting by phone, also said the Republicans supporting the motion should be ashamed of themselves.
Even Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion – the only Democratic commissioner to vote in favor of the motion – said it was not enough but added that she was voting yes because something was better than nothing for the schools.
Republicans tore into Alston after he finished and Conrad brought up the fact when Alston was chairman over a decade ago, he had led a move to cut capital funding for the the schools.
At the May 21 meeting, Republicans pointed out that the that $300 million is a lot of money that can fund many school needs, and the board can always come back in the future after that money is spent and raise more funds.