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Public-Private Partnership For Building New Schools May Be In Wake's Future

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Before the sod is even down outside the building, Brier Creek Elementary School is up and running. But the brand-new building barely makes a dent in Wake County's 15,000-seat deficit.

With an extra 20,000 new students expected in the next five years, the school system faces a serious space shortage.

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    The developer-supported Triangle Community Coalition teamed up with school districts and lobbied state lawmakers for a creative solution -- leasing schools. Private business would buy the land and build the schools, then lease them to districts for up to 40 years.

    The idea is that companies can come up with the money faster than county commissioners, who usually have to get taxpayer approval. And proponents said that in the process, schools could also save on inflation and interest.

    "Interest to the private sector is they have a guaranteed tenant with the school system," said Chris Sinclair with the Triangle Community Coalition.

    School systems will have a decision to make -- just like consumers have to decide whether to buy or lease a car, buy a house or lease an apartment. Schools will have to decide which option is more cost-effective.

    "We do need to determine whether the l40-year lease is more economical than building it ourselves and the interest we would pay and such," said Carol Parker with the Wake County School Board.

    It's a choice that Parker said the school board would be excited to have.

    "We just need more flexibility," she said. "And this gives us flexibility."

    The UNC system already uses a similar public-private lease partnership.


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