Thomas statements, public record do not match

Oct. 19, 2013 @ 03:45 PM

Union County Commissioner Jonathan Thomas said Thursday that the county was never told about leaky school roofs during the budget process.

Thomas appeared Thursday morning on WIXE radio to talk about the county's appeal of a court ruling that requires the  county  pay Union County Public Schools $91 million. It would likely result in a tax increase most residents would struggle to pay.

But had the schools been so underfunded for so long that leaky roofs were allowed to go unrepaired?

"There were a lot of facts that came out in the trial that never came out in the budget process," Thomas said. "We never had an opportunity to fund some of these leaky roofs because they were never identified in the budget process. But they were identified when we went to litigation."

Members of the UCPS school board presented capital needs during the May 15, 2013 commissioners budget workshop.  During that meeting, school board member Kevin Stewart discussed UCPS capital needs including removal of mold and asbestos from older schools and repair and maintenance of roofs.

A video of the May 15, 2013 meeting, including the presentation given by the schools, is available on the county's website, viewable by anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

On air, Thomas announced that the county would ask the appeals court to revisit the decision to "see if it was made in good faith and some of the technicalities I don't want to get into."

The county does not want a ruling of that size. He also speculated at the desires of the school board.

"To tell the truth, I don't think they want a verdict that's as large as it is," he said.

But school needs are important, he said.

"If there's a real need there, then by God, we need to fund it immediately if it's affecting the ability to provide public education to the people of Union County," Thomas said.

When asked if the school board approached the county each day of the trial with an offer to settle, Thomas said he did not know if it was every day.

Thomas said other things. The current commission "has been committed to schools from the get-go," he said. The commission "inherited a bad relationship with the board of education."

"I think that has been perpetuated by some personalities," Thomas said.

Thomas did not say who those personalities belonged to.

During the  April 16, 2012 commissioners meeting, while delivering closing comments, Thomas made a statement that has become a rallying cry for some school supporters.

"That's what we need folks, we need a board of education that will work with us, not send out publicity stints (sic) to get people all upset when we're spending money like drunken sailors in the central office," Thomas said.

Video of that meeting is available on the county's website, too.