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Chatham County Looks For Funds To Expand Overcrowded Schools

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CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. — Construction is common in Chatham County. More than 10,000 homes are expected to be built in the next decade. And with new development comes children.

"By 2011-2012, the enrollment's expected to be about 10,306," said Paul Joyce with Chatham County Schools.

That's an increase of 3,000 students in just five years. Northwood High School is already bursting at the seams, with students squeezing into trailers for added space.

"We are looking at options on where to house students," said Joyce.

Six months ago, the school system presented county commissioners with a plan for a new $43 million high school. The board approved it and then raised taxes 4 cents to start paying for the construction.

But now there's a problem. In recent months, the cost of construction material has skyrocketed. Now, the price tag of that new school has shot up 25 percent.

Coming up with the difference is getting tricky. County Commissioner Bunky Morgan is reluctant to vote for another tax increase.

"We gave them the option of taking the $43 million and building the high school," said Morgan. "You can build and add on later."

"Bottom line, it's about the children, and we've got to have a place to educate them," said Joyce.

The question now is: how are they going to pay for it? Commissioners met with state lawmakers Tuesday about increasing the land transfer tax. That would require a vote by the North Carolina General Assembly. The board will meet with school officials next Monday to try for a solution.


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