Local News

Wake County Commissioners Discuss Budget Quandary At Retreat

Posted January 29, 2006

— With a booming market and a bursting infrastructure, 6,400 new students enrolled in the Wake County Public School System this year. Even more are expected next year, and schools are quickly running out of space.

"We are in a deficit with seats in our public school system," said Wake County Commission chair Tony Gurley. "The bond coming in November of this year is actually a year ahead of schedule."

The county spent past school construction money faster than planned, and needs more. The school system laid out two proposals for the next 10 years.

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    A $4.2 billion bond package would convert more schools to year-round schedules. That would mean a property tax increase of about $1,000 a year on a $200,000 home by 2016.

    The second scenario: a $5.6 billion bond package that would keep more schools on a traditional calendar. The money would build both new traditional and year-round schools. That plan would lead to an even larger tax increase.

    At this weekend's retreat, commissioners talked about hiring an independent group of experts that would make sure the county is spending taxpayer money on schools efficiently, no matter what happens with the bond.

    "One of the things we need to do as the Board of Commissioners is to work with the school board to develop trust, so the public trusts these two groups to be responsible with whatever amount of money is provided," said Gurley.

    Gurley is confident the bond package voters see in November will be lower than the school board's request, but admits it will be tough to rally support for any kind of tax hike.

    Commissioner Phil Jeffreys says the school system should convert all schools, K-12, to year-round schedules. He said that would save a lot of space, buying the system up to four years before having to build more schools.

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