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County Commissioners Search for Ideas in Wake of Rejected School Referendum

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RALEIGH — The Wake County Commission held a public hearing Wednesday night to discuss new ways to compensate for afailed referendumto build and improve schools; however, the school bonds proved to be the main source of contention.

Wake County commissioners admitted Tuesday night's vote on the bonds turned up the pressure on the County Commission. Nearly 50 percent of the education budget the commission was counting on, included revenue from the failed $650 million worth of school bonds.

The referendum was a source of debate and the main topic of discussion at the public hearing on next year'sWake Countybudget, in which education is a priority.

"The vote was not an end, it was the beginning of a search for that better way," said Wake resident Ferris Chandler, who asked the commission, 'What now?'

County commissioners are wondering the same thing because they did not have a contingency plan in place if the bonds failed.

"We can not build schools, upgrade schools, maintain schools and start new programs," said Wake County Commissioner Yvonne Brannon.

Those items are part of a "can't do" list hurting for money. Brannon said the building boom in Wake County is one funding option in the form of impact fees, which would required newcomers to foot part of the bill.

"The public has clearly said, 73 percent have said, 'We want impact fees, transfer fees, and other ways to pay for growth,'" Brannon said. "When people move into the area, companies locate, developers build new subdivisions, they bring the need for more schools."

TheBoard of Educationhas launched aWeb site, as well as a phone number for public comments. They want to know why a majority of Wake County residents rejected the referendum. They also want suggestions and funding solutions.

The phone number is(919) 850-1611. Photographer: Joe Anthony