Jury rules for schools; awards $93 million more

Oct. 10, 2013 @ 12:31 PM

A jury of 12 Union County citizens issued a unanimous verdict in favor of the Union County Board of Education today in the school system’s lawsuit seeking additional funding from the Union County Board of Commissioners. Based on the testimony and evidence presented over the last 8 weeks, the jury’s verdict, and the Judgment of Judge W. Erwin Spainhour awarded the school system $4,973,134 in additional current expense funds and an additional $86,184,005 more than the Commissioners had provided to meet capital outlay needs.

During the lengthy trial, jurors heard testimony about leaking school roofs, unmet safety and security needs, unmet ADA (Americans with Disability Act) needs, and Technology needs. The evidence showed unmet needs dating back years that have led to deteriorating conditions in many school facilities.

The Board of County Commissioners originally allocated $3,000,000 of the approximately $8,300,000 requested by the school system in the area of capital needs. The County Commissioners also allocated only $82,000,000 of the $86,000,000 requested in the Continuing Budget.

While testifying, Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis said, "I believe that everything requested represents a need, a need for children who don't have a voice. The children depend on us to speak for them. I am not asking for extravagant things. I am asking for children to not have to attend schools with leaky roofs and for children inwheelchairs to be able to get into buildings. This is about children."

School System Attorney Richard Schwartz told the jury that during the time the trial was going on, 500 babies were born in Union County. He said that those 500 little ones would be part of the Class of 2030. The jury’s actions, he said, would impact their future and the future of the approximately 42,000 students currently enrolled in the school system.

“As a lifelong resident of Union County and as a 35-year veteran of the Union County School system, I had hoped that we would not wind up in court. We worked hard in mediation and before to avoid this. Every single day during the trial our attorneys asked their attorneys if they would consider a settlement. We tried to avoid the cost and expense of a trial. I am grateful for the twelve members of the jury who ruled in favor of our children. I pledge that we will use every dollar awarded to do all that we can to fulfill our mission to “Prepare ALL students to succeed.”