Neville to get $590,000 scoreboard, what about Carroll and Wossman?

Tuesday night the Monroe City Schools took action to build a state of the art scoreboard for Neville High School at an estimated cost of $590,000. It was the second of two projects originally intended for Neville High School alone.

The first project was presented to the board’s facilities committee earlier this year. It proposed building handicap seating areas for Neville High School’s stadium. It was a great idea, but it was only recommended for Neville High School, not Wossman or Carroll High. Board member Brandon Johnson introduced the motion, but board member Betty Cooper raised a concern that Wossman and Carroll also needed the same type of seating areas. After discussion, the Neville-only proposal was expanded to include seating areas for all three high schools.

Tuesday night’s proposal was also a Neville-only project. It was presented as a contract to loan Neville High School $590,000 to purchase a 26X40 outdoor scoreboard. In actuality, there will be no loan to Neville High School, the board itself will purchase the scoreboard out of its general fund. The board has several non-binding commitments from local businesses for sponsorships on the board over eight years.

Although the board approved the scoreboard as “contracts,” they are actually non-binding agreements because there are no penalties if sponsors default on their pledges. The sponsors are highly reputable companies who will most likely keep their promises, if the Lord says the same and the “creek don’t rise.” However, if they don’t keep their commitments, the “contracts” do not provide the board with any legal redress.

The project for the scoreboard for Neville is actually a Monroe City School system project, designed to help one high school.

Board member Betty Cooper voted against the project because, while laudable, it was being proposed for only one high school, similar to the original handicap seating plan, and not for the other two high schools.

The scoreboard is a pet project of board president Bill Willson. On his Facebook page, Willson said the school board will loan the $590,000 to the Neville Athletic Foundation which will pay it back over the next seven years. In the first year, Willson said, the foundation will repay the school district a minimum $80,000 a year beginning in 2020.

However, the package the board approved does not mention the Athletic Foundation but instead shows non-binding commitments from several businesses to pay the school board directly for sponsorships on the new scoreboard. The wording on each sponsor agreement is precise “The sponsor agrees to initiate contract payments to the Monroe City School Board…” The sponsorships are not with the Athletic Foundation, but with the school board. The agreements contain no penalties if sponsors default.

It’s a nice, cute way of saying the school board is paying for a scoreboard at Neville; it has unsecured pledges from sponsors to recoup its costs but has no legal way to force the sponsors to honor their commitments.

The board itself is buying the scoreboard for Neville.

The problem is that the board has three high schools; no similar effort is being made for Wossman or Carroll High Schools.

Since the school board represents all schools, this type of project should have included all three schools.

Willson, in his Facebook post, chided Mrs. Cooper for not being enthusiastic about the scoreboard project. Willson said the project had “one school board member inexplicably vote against it.” He maintained that he could not understand why Mrs. Cooper would vote against the measure.

It’s probably because she read the documents before her, which did not guarantee or protect the interest of the school district if it was actually a loan. Since it was not a loan but a board project to help only one school using public funds, she voted against the plan.

Bill Willson is a banker. His bank would never approve a $590,000 unsecured loan to a borrower without collateral pledges in case of default. His loan committee would turn the project down quickly. That may be why the school board is making the “loan” and not a bank.

The scoreboard will ultimately be a money maker for Neville High School because of projected advertising revenue. Wouldn’t it be great for Wossman and Carroll to have the same opportunity?

Since the board is paying for the scoreboard, it should at its next meeting, show the other schools the same consideration.

If it’s not prepared to do for all, what it does for one, then the board should reverse its scoreboard decision, until it can treat all schools fairly.

According to the agreements, the school board will be in the collections business for sponsorships on the Neville project.

It can do the same for Carroll and Wossman as well.

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