Mediation under way for UCPS, county

Union County Public Schools leaders came together with Union County staff and a mediator this week to begin hammering out some compromise on school funding.

Union County commissioners voted earlier this month to approve roughly $82 million for UCPS operating costs, $3 million for capital projects, $46 million toward debt service and around $1.5 million for school resource officers. It’s a $2.1 million increase over last year’s budget, but school district leaders say the increase falls short of getting funding to the level needed to continue running a functioning school system.

“I think both sides are better off today because we have a dispassionate third party helping us work through the issues,” school board of education chairman Richard Yercheck said on Tuesday, June 25, a day after both sides met following the June 17 budget vote. “There’s negotiation and mediation that’s going to take place.”

Yercheck will meet with county commission chairman Jerry Simpson on Friday, June 28, he said, to work out some details on both sides’ budget concerns. “I expect we’ll make some progress on Friday, as well,” Yercheck said.

Ultimately, the mediator will work to bring the two sides closer together on school funding in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit from the district against the county. Both sides need to come to a conclusion by August to avoid a possible court battle.

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