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School board approves credit union partnership
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Effingham County School System employees who can’t leave their campus during the day may soon have another option for their personal banking.

The Effingham County Board of Education voted 3-1 Wednesday to offer school district employees membership in the Energy One Federal Credit Union.

“It’s an option for our employees,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said, “and hopefully a benefit that they’ll be able to take advantage of that will help them in their personal lives and make banking a little easier.”

The partnership now must be approved by the Energy One board and the National Credit Union Association. If all goes as planned, the program could be rolled out in Effingham around the end of October, Shearouse said.

To begin, Energy One would host an open house at each school to explain the company’s services and sign up customers for new accounts. The school district eventually might consider allowing students to become members of the credit union, but for now would make it available only to school employees and their families, Shearouse said.

Under the agreement, Energy One will have an office at the Effingham College and Career Academy, staffed by one full-time employee whose job consists solely of serving the credit union’s members from the school district. Automatic teller machines will be installed at ECCA and the county’s two high schools – in areas only employees can access – with the option to put them in more schools as needed.

“As someone from the south end (of the county) said, ‘there aren’t really any banks located near us, and it would be nice if we had that service come to us,’” Shearouse said. “If you think about it, they have to go somewhere else to do that.”

Board member Mose Mock cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he’s “sure it’s a great company” but he has “personal reservations” about the potential impact on local banks. Energy One is based in Tulsa, Okla., and its only two current Georgia locations are in Marietta and Duluth.

“I taught school for 30 years,” Mock said, “and I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been to the banks and asked for sponsorship and asked for support of this show or that concert or whatever, and they’ve always been mighty good to me.”

School board Chairman Lamar Allen acknowledged Mock’s point, but countered that “I personally don’t see where it’s going to hurt any (local banks).”

 “I deal with some of them and I would love the opportunity to go somewhere else,” Allen said. “I just don’t think our banks are here for the customer.”

Energy One representatives gave a presentation to the board of education in July. They touted their services, including free checking, free online and mobile banking, free ATM use and low interest rates, particularly for people who have had financial problems and therefore would have difficulty getting a loan from a bank.

“We’re not telling (employees) they have to use it,” Allen said. “In this day and time, they need every break they can get. This is one that I think might help them.”

Energy One pledges in the agreement to support local school functions and activities, including establishing a scholarship program. Plans also include offering internships and financial education programs to Effingham County students.

“The education piece is important,” Shearouse said. “Getting students involved in internships and learning about the financial process kind of brings it to life, so it’s not just what they read in a book about economics.”