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Union Schools And County Budget Dispute Comes To Mediation And Lawsuit

Relations between school districts and counties can get tense during budget season.  But it’s way beyond that in Union County.  The school board has brought in a mediator and the county has sued the school district for financial information. 

No love is lost between Union County’s school board and the county commission. 

“I believe, your board of county commissioners protected you from a tax and spend school board.  Now, you may say the school board doesn’t have authority to tax and, I say to you, thank heavens,” said Commissioner Frank Aikmus at a meeting earlier this month.

The commission approved a budget about $7 million short of what the school board said the district needed.  School board chairman Richard Yercheck said commissioners wouldn’t listen.

“There’s supposed to be passionate, dynamic dialogue, but we’re supposed to work together.  The system is basically hijacked by one side telling the other side, ‘This is how it’s going to be,’” says Yercheck.    

Last week the school board voted to bring in a mediator to try to get more money out of the county.  Yercheck says one of the most pressing needs is money for repairs to the district’s older schools. 

“Every so many years you got to replace a roof, otherwise you have leaks.  Well, right now we’re patching roofs roughly 50 feet at a time.  That’s the strategy because we’ve been getting under-funded for so long,” says Yercheck.    

This isn’t the first time Union County’s school board has called in a mediator to deal with the county’s budget.  In fact, it’s the fourth time since 1998.  The district ended up with more money in each of those previous negotiations. 

Meanwhile, the county this week sued the district for financial records it says aren’t being provided.  School board chairman Yercheck says the district has been trying to compile those records, but it hasn’t had enough time.

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.