Editors Note: The following letter was sent to parents and students of Union County Schools.
Dear Union County Citizens,
Now that the jury has spoken, through its unanimous verdict and its separately issued public statement, it is time to put school funding issues to rest for the benefit of all citizens of Union County, and particularly its youngest citizens, our students and children. The jury’s unanimous verdict was issued after sifting through more than 8 weeks worth of testimony and evidence that justified a verdict to support the Union County Schools with an additional $91,157,139. The evidence supported the verdict, and will go a long way towards meeting the most critical needs of the Union County Public Schools. It will also help us to assure that we comply with the constitutional mandate to provide a sound basic education for all of our children.
Significantly, the evidence and testimony presented revealed that Union County has stockpiled unrestricted fund balances totaling well more than $210,000,000. There are ample funds available in the county’s coffers to fully fund the jury’s verdict without touching the county’s tax rate. The judgment allows the county, entirely in the discretion of the commissioners, to raise taxes to cover the verdict. However, I want to emphasize that the decision to raise taxes is left entirely to the discretion of the county commissioners. It is not ordered as part of the judgment, nor is it necessary to do so.
While on the witness stand, both County Manager Cindy Coto and County Commission Chairman Jerry Simpson acknowledged that there are county fund balances in the amount of $139,000,000, of which more than $120,000,000 is unrestricted. Later in the trial, the County’s own forensic auditor acknowledged that there are additional unrestricted fund balances of $91,000,000. All of this evidence, presented through the county’s own witnesses, was based on the County’s most recent audit, which ended June 30, 2012. Further testimony by both Mr. Simpson and Ms. Coto demonstrated that those fund balances have only increased since the last audit. In other words, the County’s unrestricted fund balances currently exceed $210,000,000.
It is time for the County to stop trying to tell the citizens of Union County and the Union County Board of Education that it does not have the funds available to adequately support the schools. We call on the County to do the right thing and fully fund the jury’s verdict.
Mr. Richard Yercheck
Union County Board of Education