Local News

Educators, Others Fear Bond Overload Will Push Voters Too Hard

Posted January 29, 2007 8:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2007 11:33 a.m. EST

— From schools to roads to greenways and beyond, bonds are being considered more and more as a way to make up financial shortfalls.

If you live in Raleigh, you could be voting on five multimillion-dollar bonds this fall.

That does not even take into account five more bonds that the state of North Carolina is considering.

Less than four months after voters approved a highly debated $970 million Wake County public school construction bond, county commissioners want to put another large school bond on the ballot.

Both the Wake County Board of Education and county commissioners agree that another high-dollar bond is inevitable.

What they and other parties disagree on is the timing.

The school bond could ruin the chances for the other bonds, such as a $100 million bond for Wake Technical Community College, a $60 million bond for county libraries and another $50 million bond for open space.

"We are very concerned," Wake Technical Community College President Dr. Stephen Scott said.

With so many bonds likely to be on the ballot, Scott realizes there could be voter exhaustion -- people at the polls could be less willing to go along with certain bonds, making his job even tougher.

"It will be up to us to inform the public about what the needs are and what the payback is," Scott said.

Some school board members, such as Lori Millberg, believe county commissioners' surprise move over the weekend to vote in favor

School board member Lori Millberg says the board's research shows another bond so soon after last November's would not pass.

She believes that with five board of education members up for re-election this fall, the decision by the Republican-controlled county commission is political.

For the school bond to officially be placed on the ballot, school board members must request that to happen. School board members hoped to put another near-billion-dollar bond on the ballot in a few years.

"Putting a bond on the ballot that is doomed to fail is not going to accomplish anything," Millberg said.

But Wake County Commission Chairman Tony Gurley disagrees.

"We think moving it forward and mixing it with other quality-of-life bonds would improve the chances that it would pass," Gurley said.

Ballard Everett, a consultant who has campaigned successfully in the past for school bonds, says voter fatigue can be an issue. But in the past, he says, several bonds have passed on the same ballot.

"The Wake County school bond referendum is going to be a tough sell, but I wouldn't says it's going to be dead on arrival," Everett said.