Funding uncertain for multimillion-dollar Lumberton ISD fine arts facility

10 months into construction, the City of Lumberton's emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency shelter, which will also be used as a convention center for the city and a multipurpose facility for the Lumberton Independent School District, is making incredible progress... so much progress that it has put the school district in a financial pickle.

The district thought it would have about two more years to come up with the roughly $3 million to finish the final phase of the project, which would turn the building into a fine arts facility for student performances. Right now the small stage in the Lumberton High School cafeteria is the only venue in the district for that.

"This was an opportunity to get something that we felt is very needed, not just for the community but our students, and not just our current students but future students," Lumberton ISD Superintendent John Valastro told 12News Thursday.
$2.9 million in federal grant money was provided to construct the 25,000 sq. ft. domed structure located between Lumberton Intermediate and Lumberton High School.

Phases 1 and 2, which include the emergency shelter and 4 to 6 classrooms for the school district to use, are expected to be completed by this summer. But the fine arts center was added to the project by Lumberton ISD after the grant money was provided. Lumberton taxpayer Jamie Chizer believes citizens should have been able to vote on the decision.

"I understand that people want to make it bigger and better, but when you don't have the money, does that mean you go ahead and do it anyway?" Chizer said.

The school district's task now is to figure out where the money to pay for a 4,000 sq. ft. performance stage, lighting, audio equipment, and stadium seating will come from.

Valastro says the district is currently looking at a number of different ways to gather the money, such as business sponsorships.

"This is a very nice facility... we feel like there are enough individuals in the community that may want to make a donation," he said.

Valastro is confident the district will be able to gather the necessary funds, but says it may need to borrow money and pay it back later. Valastro said a bond proposal is out of the question.

Two different bond proposals for a fine arts facility have failed in years past. Those bond proposals were around $9 million.

"We're doing it cheaper... we're doing it better," said Valastro.

The fine arts facility is tentatively expected to be completed by the end of 2014.



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