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Cumberland Schools Facing Student Influx, Funding Challenges

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Cramped classrooms at Stoney Point Elementary School in Fayetteville are just one example of a problem that leaders of the

Cumberland County Schools

say is going to get worse.

The school system is expecting an influx of students over the next few years, in part because of thousands of soldiers transferring to Fort Bragg as a result of base realignments. The school system could get 800 new military children next school year and about 2,700 students over the next three years -- in addition to its normal growth.

"That's a school. We're growing at a rate of a school a year," said Tim Kinlaw, who serves as associate superintendent for auxiliary services for the school system.

"We can't keep adding on," Kinlaw added. "We've got to build new schools."

At Stoney Point, for example, which already relies on portable classrooms to accommodate students, the school is adding 12 new classrooms. They should be ready by next fall, but school officials say they need at least 13 to accommodate its current student population.

The question worrying many people is how will the school system get the $200 million in funding it needs to accommodate the growth.

One plan is for the system to borrow $55 million through certificates of participation, which would allow the school district to get the money without going to voters for approval.

State officials say the county must prove it can pay back money before it can borrow. County officials are hoping that income from the state lottery can help pay back the borrowed money. They still may have to fight for a tax increase, however.

"We know they need it," said Cumberland County Commissioner Breeden Blackwell. "But does the average Joe Citizen believe enough in the school system to support a $200 million bond issue?"

Parent Jeremy Cernusak said he supports a tax increase if it is for the children, but believes the public is skeptical about what a tax increase would be for.

"A lot of people are critical of the government," he said. "They don't believe the money goes to what they say it's going for."


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