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Settlement Looks Unlikely In $91 Million Union County Schools Verdict

Jimmy Wayne

Union County and its school board continue to bicker over funding.  But since October, it’s taken a different tone after a jury ordered Union County to pay the school system $91 million.  Union County commissioners offered a much smaller settlement this month and the school board said, “No, thank you.”

Union County commissioners say the settlement offer is all the county can afford.  The county has already paid the school system $8 million after the jury’s verdict.  Commissioners told the school board the county would stop pursuing an appeal if the district would accept another $11 million.

“We felt like that $11.2 million was not enough money,” says school board chairman Richard Yercheck. 

After all, the offer falls $73 million short of the jury’s award.  Yercheck says the school board is holding out for the full amount, since he says that’s what schools need after several years of unfunded building and maintenance projects.  And Yercheck says the county has the money.  

“If they will accept the $91 million judgment, then we will work with them and spread out payments over time.”

Yercheck says maybe over five years or so.  He wrote that in a letter to commissioners earlier this month.  He also detailed the school board’s gripes with commissioners. 

It didn’t go over well with them. 

“When you’re trying to rebuild and repair a relationship, the last thing you do is with a seven page letter full of inflammatories,” says Commissioner Jonathan Thomas.   

Commissioners say the county would either have to dramatically cut services or raise taxes to come up with the jury’s award. 

“I’m not willing to increase the settlement anymore," says Thomas. "In fact, not only that, I would work very hard to try to get a consensus on the board of commissioners not to do that without some type of return and protection for the taxpayer.”  

So it appears the county will continue to pursue an appeal.  

A lot of eyes are on this case.  Thomas says Union County has received calls from several other counties across the state closely watching all the maneuvers.