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Survey: Wake Residents Want More Ways to Pay for Schools

Wake County residents want options to pay for new schools, according to an online poll released Tuesday by the Wake Education Partnership.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County residents want options to pay for new schools, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Wake Education Partnership.

“There’s a sense we are trying to hit a homerun every few years instead of trying to get some base hits in between,” said Jeff Merritt, who sits on the Wake Education Partnership board of directors.

The unscientific online poll survey was conducted Nov. 8-22 after Wake County voters passed a $970 million school construction bond that would, among other things, allow for 17 new schools to open between 2008 and 2011.

The survey, however, found no real consensus on how to pay for new schools.

Voters want everything from impact fees to lifting the cap on charter schools to be considered.

“The bond can’t be the only way we fund construction and renovations,” Merritt said.

Merritt said it was a coincidence that the Wake Education Partnership poll was ready for release at a time when Wake County commissioners want to place another multimillion-dollar school bond on the ballot.

The timing of a new bond is now in the hands of the Wake County Board of Education, which must request the matter be placed on the ballot.

Wake County Manager David Cooke sent a letter to Wake County Public School System Superintendent Del Burn asking that the school board consider expediting the bond.

But even before the school board decides if it will grant that request, some high-profile supporters of the 2006 bond, including several Wake County mayors, say they will not support another one this fall.

"I think it's too much too soon,” Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said. “No way will I do it again this quick -- ’08 is the right year, maybe ’09 is the right year to do it, not ’07.”

Knowing school leaders will not have the same support from many voters and mayors is bound to have an impact on its decision whether to proceed ahead of schedule.

Although they are not ready to commit, some school board members say they cannot ignore calls for alternatives to pay for new schools.

"We ought to look at operations, and we ought to be given the time to do that,” board member Rosa Gill said.

Although a majority of county commissioners want to move forward with a new bond, new commissioner Lindy Brown says she will push fellow members to hold work with the school board instead of against it.

“I am quite disturbed by that,” Brown said.

School board members will hold a special meeting Thursday to talk about the bond request from county commissioners.

In the meantime, the Wake Education Partnership will try to address some of the concerns about the last bond.

The poll found the biggest reason people voted against the bond: mandatory year round schools.

The group will start a new online resource center and hold a series of town hall meetings.