Planning for new Moyock school needs to start soon, board told

By on August 26, 2018

Bobby Hanig, chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners (left), and Board of Education member Will Crodic. (Dee Langston)

Currituck County’s Board of Education needs to start shopping for land for a new elementary school, Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon told school officials last week during a joint meeting between the county’s Board of Education and Board of Commissioners.

Although Moyock Elementary hasn’t yet reached full capacity, it may in the next few years, given the number of future subdivisions planned for the area.

“We’ve got time; it’s not tomorrow, but if you don’t start, tomorrow will be here tomorrow,” Scanlon said, reassuring school officials that when it’s time to build a new school, the county will provide the money.

“If you find a willing seller, you should talk to the commissioners,” he said.

The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to discuss the county’s Adequate Public Facilities ordinance, along with a presentation on the county’s occupancy tax.

Under the public facilities ordinance, the county is required to consider whether there are adequate public facilities and services — including schools, law enforcement, fire and rescue — to meet the needs of residents in new subdivisions.

The county can’t deny approval of a new subdivision because there aren’t adequate facilities, but instead must make plans to provide them, Scanlon explained.

“Every subdivision approved gets you closer to a new school,” he said.

The county will be able to help the school board narrow the search for property, he added, and provide technical assistance on soils, drainage and other issues.

In addition to planning for a new elementary school in Moyock, Scanlon said, the school board at some point will need to consider expanding Currituck High School.

Although he acknowledged expanding the high school might not be a popular option, he said it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to build a new high school when there was enough space to expand the current one.

“That’s showing leadership,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon’s presentation on the county’s occupancy tax Wednesday included an overview about what the revenue from the tax could and couldn’t be used for — namely, that it can’t be used for new schools or school programs.

“Education is not one of the statutory-approved uses of occupancy tax revenue,” he said.

Currituck and other counties that receive occupancy tax revenue have tried to get the state legislature to consider allowing the funds to be used for education but have been unsuccessful, he added.

The occupancy tax is a 6 percent tax on lodging, such as hotel rooms and beach house rentals, which is expected to generate more that $10.5 million in revenue for the county this year.

A third of the projected occupancy tax revenue is designated for promoting Currituck as a destination for tourists, mostly through social media, but also through advertising on television and in the media, special promotions and other activities.

The remaining $7 million is earmarked for tourism-related expenditures. An additional 60,000 to 70,000 people come to Currituck every summer, requiring additional ambulance and law enforcement services. Occupancy tax revenue is used to help offset the cost of the additional services, Scanlon said.

Tourism-related spending also covers things like upkeep and programs at the Whalehead Club, one of the county’s main tourist attractions, and Connecting Corolla, a multi-use path.

Occupancy tax funds have also been used for meeting and recreation facilities, such as the ballparks in Maple. Tournaments are held almost every weekend at Maple Park, and the teams and spectators who attend will result in a greater need for restaurants and hotels in Currituck, Scanlon said.

“We’re trying to bring people into the county so they can spend money and generate sales tax revenue,” he said. Although visitors to the beach, the county’s main attraction, generate most of the occupancy tax, Scanlon said it’s prudent for the county to expand its tourism offerings because of the potential drop in beach visitors following a major storm or hurricane.

Scanlon said the county is often approached by people suggesting creative uses for the funds, and Wednesday’s meeting was no exception.

Board of Education member Will Crodick suggested that occupancy tax could be used for a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse at Currituck County High School, to attract gardeners to the county.

A new greenhouse could help create a botanical garden in Currituck, attracting even more visitors, Crodick added.

School board Chairman Bill Dobney offered an idea to use new activity buses, presumably paid for with occupancy taxes, to promote tourism, as the buses travel to events all over North and South Carolina.

“Activity buses could be mobile billboards for promoting the county,” Dobney said.

“That’s being creative,” Scanlon said.

Currituck County has a Tourism Advisory Board, which generates the budget for the tourism department’s promotional activities, and also reviews requests for occupancy tax allocations.

If the Board of Education wants to consider promoting the county, it should approach the advisory board with that request, Scanlon said.

“The Board of Education has to be able to put together a quality product and present that to us,” Commissioner Paul Beaumont added.

In the past, there has been some contention between the two boards, and meetings like Wednesdays are intended to help keep communication between the boards open and productive.

“I’m just happy we’re all here on the same page,” Board of Education member Janet Rose said.

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  • Spoony Rae

    Funny thing; not one republican on the board suggests cutting the tax if they have too much, instead they offer it up to be wasted in new creative ways. The school system can’t even account for the money it currently gets.

    Sunday, Aug 26 @ 1:31 pm
  • Otis

    Yeah Bill Dobney, what a great idear, Currituck could certainly use some more billboards especially on the highway!!

    Tuesday, Aug 28 @ 9:16 am