Local News

Poll: Wake Residents Mixed On Year-Round Schools, Against Tax Increases

Posted May 15, 2006 8:13 a.m. EDT

— According to a poll conducted this week for WRAL and

The News & Observer

, voters are split when it comes to whether year-round schools should be mandatory or optional. But factor in taxes, and the opinions quickly change.

Voters said they do not want higher taxes, even if it means switching all schools to a year-round calendar.

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    "If the vote was held today, the bond would not pass," said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley.

    In the poll, 59 percent of respondents said they would oppose a $998 million bond that saves money by switching nearly all elementary schools to a year-round schedule. That amount still raises property taxes.

    Fifty-seven percent said they would oppose an even higher bond that would keep year-round schools mostly optional and raise taxes even more.

    Only one amount was favored in the poll. Sixty-four percent of respondents favored a $625 million bond that does not raise taxes. This option could flip all middle and elementary schools to a year-round schedule and put high schools on split shifts.

    "Are taxes more important to people than year-round schedules?" asks Hope Carmichael, whose citizens group opposes mandatory year-round schools and hopes to persuade the schools system to maintain choice. "Not to the people I'm talking to, but I agree that's what your poll seems to indicate."

    With 6,000 to 7,000 more students moving in each year, Wake School Board chairwoman Patti Head said schools are in a crisis situation. Head said she thinks county leaders can explain how important the issue is to the voters.

    Gurley supports the $998 million option and he believes it can pass.

    For voters who want an even higher bond without mandatory year-round schools, he has a compromise. He would like to add a separate $300 million item to the ballot for parents.

    Carmichael, for one, is hoping to keep that option alive.

    "We have to pay for the growth," she said. "Number two, it is for the good of all Wake County citizens, not just those in Wake County schools."

    Voters did show some support for a local ½-cent sales tax increase that could raise $25 million to $30 million per year for school construction.

    Wake County School Board members vote Tuesday on the amount of money to ask from voters. Any year-round schedule changes would start in Fall 2007.