Talk may be cheap – but what the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and Guilford County Schools officials have been talking about at great length this month certainly isn’t cheap – in fact, it could have a price tag of over a billion dollars.

The two government bodies have been engaged in some very intense back and forth discussions over how to conduct, and pay for, a massive multi-year overhaul of Guilford County school facilities along with new construction. On Friday, Jan. 17, the county announced that a new joint meeting between county officials and the school system’s Capital Facilities Committee will take place in the coming week.

The announcement of the new meeting came right on the heels of an extensive discussion of the very same issue at a Thursday, Jan. 16 work session of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at which the board was presented with a very wide range of options as to how to fund the coming round of school repairs, renovation and new construction. Based on those talks, the amount of funding to be raised looks like it will fall between $750 million and $1billion, with funding to come either from a school bond referendum, a sales tax increase or a combination of the two.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, when the commissioners saw in great detail a financial breakdown of various “payback scenarios,” Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips asked if the assumptions the financial analysts made in the presentation took into consideration any of the county’s other borrowing needs. The county is currently engaged in building several facilities that county government has needed for years.

“Not in this material,” was the budget analyst’s response. “This is focused on just school needs.”

Phillips said it would be “short-sighted” to not look at school needs in context with other county needs.

“I think we have to look at the CIP [Capital Improvement Plan] to give us a better feel for what that looks like under the current plan,” Phillips said, which was likely his way of informing school officials that the county has plenty of other financial demands it’s facing.

He added that some of those county projects may or may not be done on the timeline the Board of Commissioners originally planned.

That tension between school capital needs and other county needs will also be present at the next meeting of county and school officials which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. in the conference room on the third floor of the county-owned BB&T building in downtown Greensboro.