Local News

Poll Shows Lack Of Support For Wake Schools Bond Proposal

Posted April 27, 2006

— Taxes and year-round schools are both nerve-racking subjects for parents. The combination may send voters over the edge.

The latest school bond proposal cuts costs, but still may not appeal to voters. The current proposal adds about $75 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $150,000 home. This follows a proposal that would cut the bond in half by converting most elementary schools to year-round schedules and modifying the middle and high school schedules.

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    John Locke Foundation Poll Results

    Although voters do not want a tax increase, elected officials believe they can gain support for the plan. However, a new poll suggests that the latest bond, under $1 billion, is still too costly for voters to pass.

    "Any proposed Wake County school bond with a tax increase attached to it is in trouble; that's what this poll tells you," said John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation.

    The poll was conducted by the foundation, a conservative thinktank. It mirrors what voters told the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce in a separate poll released in March.

    "It's troubling, that's for sure," said school board member Carol Parker.

    Still, some school board members and county commissioners would rather work on selling the public on the needs rather than lower the price.

    "The reason I believe that is it will more fully meet the needs of the system now," said Wake County Commission chair Tony Gurley.

    If the bond fails, school board members say there would be a dramatic conversion of all elementary and middle schools to year-round, and possibly split shifts for high schools.

    Moreover, property taxes could still go up. More growth and more year-round schools would mean more staff, which means schools would cost more to operate.

    Additionally, Gurley says that failure of the bond proposal would force the public to decide on another bond issue even sooner, with the same outcome voters are trying to avoid.

    "Every penny of that new bond would require a tax increase," said Gurley.

    "I believe we can get this bond passed, and I'm going to continue to believe that," said school board chair Patti Head.

    The current proposal is for $994 million. The county can afford $625 million without an immediate property tax increase, but construction and renovation would be slashed.

    The county wants state lawmakers to allow them to ask voters for a half-cent sales tax increase for construction. Another committee is looking at taxes like impact fees to help. Plus, the county hired a consultant to help them build schools as cost effectively as possible.

    The John Locke Foundation poll also shows that 71 percent of voters support mandatory year-round schools, if they save on construction costs. A majority of voters who are parents also support that move.

    In March, a Raleigh Chamber of Commerce poll showed 60 percent of voters supported converting the entire county to a year-round calendar.

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