Archived Story

Looking Back: County, city negotiations continuing

Published 10:41am Saturday, December 15, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

by Clyde Parker

THE TIDEWATER NEWS

Dec. 14, 1962

Negotiations between the Southampton County and the city in regard to Franklin establishing a separate school system are continuing with no apparent consensus.

Still at issue is whether the city should pay for county school property within the city and how much the city should share in the county school debt. This is a very thorny issue.

The county believes the city should pay for school buildings in Franklin even though Franklin citizens, through taxation, paid for most of the school property in Franklin a long time ago. Prior to 1948, Franklin was a separate school district. Franklin High School, Franklin Elementary School and what is now Hayden Elementary School were built before 1948.

For decades, Hayden was a consolidated school. High school and elementary grades were housed together. In 1952, the present-day Hayden High School was built on a new site — not too far from the old location. Now, the old property houses only Hayden Elementary School.

Hayden Elementary is within the city. However, Hayden High School is in Southampton County and is a major factor in a city-initiated annexation suit that would bring the school and other adjacent property into the city limits.

Franklin citizens through county taxation helped pay for Hayden High School. Franklin wants Hayden High School as well as Franklin High School, and Franklin and Hayden elementary schools.

Up until now, the city has refused to compensate the county for school property in Franklin, but has agreed to pay $140,000 of the county school debt.

Now, the city is offering $200,000 for the property, including Hayden High School — valued at $500,000 — plus an additional $354,000 if the city is allowed by the county to continue teaching 900 students in the Southampton County communities of Hunterdale, Black Creek, Burdette and Forks of the River. The county rejected Franklin’s offer of $354,000 for the children.

“It is in very poor taste,” a county spokesman said.

And, now, the city has said it would consider paying a higher school debt.

The school debt is estimated to be close to $1 million. And, the value of school property is reported to be more than $1.2 million.

Surprisingly, the county just announced that concurrent with discussions in regard to splitting the school district there have been recent subsidiary conversations with Franklin officials initiated by Southampton relative to a permanent continuation of the present consolidated system and establishing a joint school board.

It is not too late to do this. In fact, the two systems are being operated jointly. The target date for Franklin to go to an independent system is the beginning of the 1963-1964 school year.

The operation of a joint city/county school system by a single board, equally divided, is provided for by state law. The law says the board shall have seven or nine members — one member to be appointed by the circuit court to act as a tiebreaker.

Last week, the city acknowledged that it might consider a joint school system and a nine-member school board with equal representation. The county countered with a proposed 7-3 split based on the fact that Franklin previously paid just 30 percent of the total school cost.

Just this week, though, the city rejected the proposed consolidation, maintaining the situation has gone too far for a joint school board to be realistically considered.

“Consolidation, of course, disregards one of two primary reasons why Franklin wanted to become an independent city — to operate its own school system,” said a Franklin spokesman.

Following news of Franklin’s consolidation rejection, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors brought up the fact that the county has spent $9,000 in legal fees and guesses the city has paid at least that much. If the case goes to court, the legal fees will be quite high.

“Think about the extra money that has been spent already by the two jurisdictions for operation of two school districts. (Franklin has already hired a superintendent.) This money, plus additional amounts, could be better spent on education of the children in both jurisdictions,” said a Southampton County spokesman.

“And, look at all the time and energy being spent to deal with this whole matter,” he added. “We should spend our time developing good schools for both jurisdictions and fostering good relations with our respective communities.”

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is ParkerC@seva-redcross.org.

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