Wake school, county leaders look at new ways to fund schools
Posted February 3
Raleigh, N.C. — Every few years, massive bonds attached to long-range plans are passed to fund school construction, but a Wednesday night meeting between the Wake County school board and Wake County commissioners introduced the concept of breaking that down into smaller, more frequent, payments.
Every few years, Wake County voters know they will get hit with a bill. There was a school board referendum in 2013 for more than $800 million and another before that in 2006.
“It’s huge in numbers, but we have huge numbers of people,” said Wake County school board chair Tom Benton.
As students keep coming, even more new schools are needed in the county. The need for more schools is not new, but there is a new proposal from county leaders to change the way they are funded.
“We are going to be building schools, so let’s just admit the program is going to go on and we just need to figure out a way to fund it,” said Wake County Deputy Manager Johnna Rogers.
Wake County school leaders said their needs for things like new schools, land buys, and renovations comes to nearly $360 million per year because of population growth.
Rogers said instead of large bond votes spaced years apart, there could be smaller bonds that are planned and voted on every couple years. She said it will guard against surprises, like major changes in the economy and increases and decreases in student population growth.
“It is a great first step and something for us to build off of,” said Benton. “That we are not always waiting on a big event of a bond issue, a humongous bond issue every three to five years, but a continuing program that will continue to meet the needs of Wake County.”
However frequent future bonds may be, county and school board leaders still have to hammer out how much money will be in them.
“The devil is in the details,” said Benton.