Wake school bond backers pull in big-money support
Posted October 3, 2013
Cary, N.C. — Area business interests are helping bankroll support for an $810 million school construction bond going before Wake County voters next Tuesday.
Friends of Wake County has raised almost $250,000 to campaign for the bond's passage, with large chunks coming from the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, WakeMed, software developer Red Hat and other local employers.
"We have more and more people coming here, and there's a law that says, if people come here, we must accommodate them. So, we need schools, and we need good schools," said Marion Robinson, co-chairman of Friends of Wake County.
The bond would pay for construction of 11 elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, as well as major renovations at six schools and smaller upgrades at numerous others.
Wake County Public School System officials say the new and expanded schools will help the district keep up with enrollment growth, which is expected to increase by 20,000 students over the next five years.
Robinson and other supporters say the bond is an investment in economic development. Still, area taxpayers will foot the bill, with the property tax rate going up by 5 cents if the bond is approved. That would add $75 to the annual tax bill of the owner of a $150,000 house.
"We haven't had an increase in taxes in Wake County for some five years or more. This is the first bond issue since 2006," Robinson said.
Ed Jones, chairman of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, said the county doesn't need another $1 billion in debt right now, and he said the school board is already too free with taxpayer money.
"Why do we need Taj Mahal buildings to educate the students?" Jones said. "You can have a great classroom in a dairy barn if you've got good teachers and good instructional materials."
He said he doesn't believe the county – and the school district – will grow as quickly as supporters predict. He also said the district already has enough classroom space to meet demand for the next several years, and if more space is needed, the school board could find other solutions, such as mobile classrooms.
"They haven't been a good steward of our money, and therefore, we don't feel that we can trust them to be good stewards of this bond issue – this big money – or any additional money," he said.