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School Bond Could Be on Durham Ballot This Year

Posted January 19, 2007

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— Durham Public School leaders and county commissioners Friday talked about a long-term funding plan to help ease school overcrowding and to renovate existing schools.

For the past year, the school system has been working on a long-range facilities plan that looks at needs through 2018 and includes money for seven new schools in high-growth areas of the county.

The $550 million proposal factors in renovations and additions at existing schools.

County leaders originally thought they would float the idea of a school bond in 2009 to fund the plan, but decided Friday to get the idea out now and put it up for a vote this year.

"We want to make sure our students are in facilities that are up-to-date, technologically sound and that they are inviting so that their education is a welcoming and inviting experience for them.," school board Chairwoman Minnie Forte said.

Commissioners believe a bond is the best way to pay for the plan. They want to do it in phases, with $176 million on the 2007 ballot.

"It's a lot of money," County Commissioner Lewis Cheek said. "But we have to take care of the educational needs of this area."

The board also plans to survey residents this spring to see if the bond idea will fly.

With a 2 percent annual growth in the schools and residential building permits running at record levels, commissioners say they cannot afford to wait.

"Frankly, it's much more expensive once you get terribly behind to try and catch up all of a sudden," Cheek said.

The two boards will meet again in March to take a closer look at the plan.
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