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New Wake Schools, Renovations Could Be Placed On Back Burner

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Last October, voters passed a $450 million bond package. Thirteen new schools, 16 renovations and 61 repair projects got the go-ahead. Now, Wake County schools may have to spend some of the money to ease overcrowding immediately. Four of those projects may get delayed because of unexpected growth.

"I think we're really playing catch-up," associate superintendent Don Haydon said.

State Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake, sees a problem with the way the money is being spent. Capps, a member of the North Carolina Taxpayers Association, has fought the bond referendum.

"There is no question they have a problem. The question is are they solving it in the right way," he said. "We need to look at other alternatives and they are there if we put our priorities in the right place."

County Commission Chairman Kenn Gardner wants to see the pace of construction pick up.

"The citizens of Wake County have been very generous. They have passed two bond referendums over the last four years," he said. "There's still $660 million of unspent money from those last two bonds."

Officials said building the new schools can take time -- up to three years on average to buy the land, build the school and open it. In order to keep pace with growth, Wake County schools may need to move up the 2007 bond referendum and stay on a continuous building cycle. If a bond referendum were to fail, that could set officials back even further.

"That would be a huge concern to us if one were to fail. I think in that case, we would have to go back to the drawing board and come back for another referendum as soon as we could," associate superintendent Don Haydon said.

The last time a bond referendum failed in Wake County was 1999. Some county commissioners believe a tax increase would be a given with a new referendum. The school board is scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting Tuesday.

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