Board of Education members on Thursday said it was a difficult decision to approve closing Unity Elementary School in a move to save an estimated $4 million.
The proposal includes closing the school to save an estimated $1.1 million, various budget reductions totaling $1.9 million, an up to .25 mill property tax rate increase to bring in $500,000 and using $500,000 in reserve funds.
“We are in a difficult situation. We are in difficult economic times and we are charged to make a difficult decision,” said Board of Education chairwoman Sheila Rowe before the vote. “Now more than ever, we as board members are called upon to weigh our options and choose the best course of action for our school system as a whole, and let me repeat that, choose the best course of action for our school system as a whole. So having said that, I will make a motion we support our superintendent’s recommendation and choose option 1.”
Board member Ted Alford said when a company like Milliken needs to manage its bottom line, it closes mills. The city can raise utility rates, but “we don’t have any of those options.”
“I have strong ties to Unity,” Alford said, noting that his first principal job and his wife’s first teaching job were at the school. ” … But I don’t see any other way. We have weighed this and a little bit of everything else. We have had some heated discussions … but I don’t see any other way.”
Board member Debbie Burdette said the decision is hard for the board to make.
“We have looked at all options that people have recommended, looked at them up and down,” she said. “… It’s hard for us to come to this decision. … It’s hard to make these decisions, but this is what we’ve come down to.”
The vote passed with a 5-2 margin. Board members Ashley Adams and Allen Simpson voted against the proposal.
Check Friday’s edition of LaGrange Daily News for the full story.