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More Year-Round Schools Favorable Choice In Wake Poll

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Leaders are trying to figure out what it would take to pass one of Wake County's proposed billion-dollar school bonds.
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    A Raleigh Chamber of Commerce poll shows voters believe the school construction bonds are too high. Residents would see tax increases and many aren't convinced the increases are worth the cost.

    Only about 40 percent of those surveyed supported the bonds; 66 percent of voters want more year-round schools, which can accommodate more students. Only 23 percent did not want them.

    The more year-round schools, the lower the school bond, but either way, voters will pay more.

    "We've got to take this input that we've received from the public and come back with a smaller bond issue that has more year-round to it," said Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan on Tuesday.

    The figure with the fewest year-round schools could cost the owner of $175,000 house $200 more a year in property taxes. Converting a majority of schools to year-round schedules would cost the same owner $126 more.

    Some people argue year-round schools are a temporary fix. Wake County Commission Chairman Tony Gurley supports the idea of year-round schools, but said the public still thinks the bond options are too expensive.

    "You need to be 55 percent to 58 percent approval in polling before you go to the public with the bond amount," Gurley said.

    One place for a cutback is $758 million in school renovation and office projects, which would include 10 elementary, six middle and six high-school projects, new bus facilities, swing space and offices. But school board members still want to sell the public on the needs. They worry that cutting renovations will make buildings unusable.

    "I think we need a reality check to some of the consequences," said school board chairwoman Patti Head.

    And parents, like Louise Lee, president of the group Save Our Summers, worry that focusing on year-round schools will make quality of life unsuitable.

    "It's sad to me that this has become a numbers game," Lee said. "The human aspect has been taken out of this."

    The school board has to develop a bond proposal that voters will support in November. The latest poll gives them a place to start. If a school bond doesn't pass in November, county commissioners say all elementary and middle schools will convert to year-round schedules. The county will borrow money through other means at a higher interest rate and focus only on immediate building needs.