Local News

Raleigh's Mayor Urges Immediate School Construction

Posted February 28, 2006

— Wake County leaders are taking too long to solve the overcrowding issue affecting the county's public school system, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Monday in an address on the state of the city.

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    In his annual address, Meeker outlined a plan that could get Wake County to start building schools immediately by using projected tax revenue over the next 10 years to fund up to $650 million in school construction.

    "Go ahead and fund as much of that amount as they can, right now," Meeker said. "You don't need to wait for the bond issue in the fall."

    Meeker proposed using Certificates of Participation instead of General Obligation Bonds, both of which involve future tax revenue.

    The difference, however, is that bonds, which require voter approval, could involve a tax increase if they are not repaid. Certificates of Participation require the forfeit of property if they are not repaid. They do not require the approval of voters, which would mean school construction could begin now.

    The certificates are a little more expensive, but Meeker said starting early could save on construction costs.

    But Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Toney Gurley said the spending would be premature.

    "I think he is being deceived if he believes we will be prompted to spend taxpayers' money before we have a plan, before we can be assured that the taxpayer money will be responsibly spent," Gurley said.

    Just hours before the state-of-the-city address, Gurley stressed his view to Meeker and emphasized he would not be pressured into acting quickly.

    "If you don't have a plan and specific projects, you are wasting money," Gurley said.

    Meeker's plan would still require a bond that would involve a tax increase -- just not as large.

    School growth management was not Meeker's only topic in the address. He also reaffirmed his call for the city of Raleigh to lead by example in improving energy efficiency by reducing the use of fossil fuels by 20 percent over the next five years.

    Meeker also said that the community has an obligation to do a better job finding help for the homeless.

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