Wake County Schools

Proposed Wake schools task force could help pace county development

Posted September 29, 2014

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— The fight, and eventual victory, by Cary parents to keep Mills Park elementary and middle schools on a traditional 10-month calendar highlighted the struggle school officials have in addressing overcrowding as development brings more families to the area.

A possible answer was discussed during a Wake schools committee meeting on Monday.

The Government Relations Committee approved a proposal to create the Growth Issues Task Force, a group that could comprise of city and town leaders, school officials, parents and developers to consider items that include:

  • The capability to plan for future growth
  • Land use policies
  • How towns, cities and the school district might plan together
  • How things will be paid for

“Builder fees, impact fees, what have you,” said board member Keith Sutton, committee chairman. “We want a forum to discuss all these issues and more.”

Some parents believe legislative action is needed – state law prohibits communities from considering school infrastructure when approving building permits.

“The answer is in the state legislature,” parent Susan Stines said during a recent school board meeting.

The balance between development and schools has been an ongoing struggle in Cary, which has grown by more than 50 percent over the last 13 years and is often ranked among the country’s best places to live. This has resulted in its schools being filled beyond capacity – Mills Park elementary and middle are at 111 and 116 percent, respectively.

Parents at both schools opted for an enrollment cap and mobile classrooms, which will cost the district $530,000 plus more for traffic adjustments, over a calendar change, which parents said would disrupt family and community cohesiveness but would have reduced enrollment at both schools by more than 20 percent. The cap and temporary classrooms were approved by school board members during their Sept. 16 meeting.

"While it's been a difficult month for folks in that part of the community and all of us trying to gravel with this, one of the positive things is an understanding of the pressure we are facing as a school district and how we continue to deal with growth in high growth areas and reasons why we're looking at some less than attractive measures to deal with the growth," school board member Susan Evans, whose district includes the Mills Park schools, said during the meeting.

District enrollment is projected to grow by 18,000 students over the next four years. To address the influx of students, three schools are scheduled to open in 2015 (two elementary, one high), five in 2016 (four elementary, one middle), six in 2017 (five elementary, one high) and three in 2018 (two middle, one high).

School officials hope the task force – the district had a similar group in 2009 – will help balance the county’s growth with school capacity.

School board members will consider reestablishing the task force at an upcoming school board meeting.

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  • Greg Boop Sep 30, 2014
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    All the developers disagree with you... and they have powerful lobbyists.

  • Steve Faulkner Sep 30, 2014
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    why do they need half a million dollars for "traffic adjustment", when nothing really changed??

  • rand321 Sep 30, 2014

    New homes require certain new public facilities; it only seems logical that they pay a fee to build the school, road, parks, and other infrastructure needed by the new residents.

    It is not fair to dump the costs onto the taxpayers.

  • Greg Boop Sep 30, 2014
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    Cary formerly passed a "Adequate Public Facilities" ordinance which required that the adequate schools, parks, roads, etc. be available before a building permit would be issued. Developers fought this in court and in the state legislature. Unfortunately the courts overturned the ordinance and the state legislature further pushed laws to stop towns from passing anything similar.

  • AmazedAtThis Sep 30, 2014

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    Several municipalities have tried to get the Legislature to either enable impact fees statewide or on a local basis. Those efforts have been fiercely opposed by the homebuilders and real estate lobbyists. In addition the NC Supreme Court upheld (by a tie vote) a Court of Appeals ruling outlawing these type of fees. Cary alone found itself in a position of having to refund a ton of money that had been collected. The developers and realtors have this flank covered well. Do not expect relief from this legislature.

  • B.c. Jimmy Sep 30, 2014
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    too late.

  • stephenhopkins04 Sep 30, 2014

    Everyone knows the issues of overcrowding. They say towns or municipalities can not take into consideration about infrastructure because of the law. Change the law and make that part of the approval to build homes. Charge builders a fee in order to build these school facilities, charge fees to improve and widen the roads. What are they waiting for?