Local News

Supporters Face Daunting Task In Selling School Bond

Posted May 18, 2006 9:42 a.m. EDT

— With a $1 billion school bond awaiting taxpayer approval and a mountain of opposition, the Wake County school board has a big job ahead of them before November. How will they get the support they need to pass the bond?

Board members say it's now about focusing on the main issues: Too many kids, not enough space and more kids coming into the county every year. They say when people realize the need is real they'll support it. However, it will be a tough sell.

Wake County resident Sean Fitts does not support the new school bond package

"I think people are tired of writing blank checks," said Fitts. "They're tired of saying, 'Oh, you need more money. Take it.' They want to see results."

A recent poll shows Fitts is one of a majority of people who would vote down the proposed bond issue in November. So how will the school board convince people them the bond is the best bet?

"We've got to make sure the public understands that the need is real, that we need the seats," said former school board member Bill Fletcher.

Fletcher said the real issue has been sidetracked by talk of year-round schools and taxes.

"Taxes will be raised whether the bond passes or not, because we have to build the schools," said Fletcher. "That I think is the message that no one understands."

A committee called Friends of Wake County is being formed to spearhead a strategy to get the bond passed. Virginia Parker was on the committee three years ago to promote the 2003 school bond.

"It's a lot of talking, a lot of one-on-one conversations," said Parker. "It's yard signs. It's public messages."

Three years ago, the group raised more than $200,000 in private donations to pay for brochures, mailers, and radio ads. The bond passed, but there was no tax increase associated with it.

"It is definitely going to be harder work, because there will be an anti-message out there," said Parker.

And for people like Fitts, he said it will take a lot of convincing to sway his vote.

"Show me proven results first," said Fitts. "Show me that we're actually educating children. Show me we're improving their situation."

Members of the school board and Wake County Commissioners will help to form the "Friends of Wake County" group. That process should start in early June.