Local News

Wake commissioners give $80M to school projects

Posted October 21, 2008 5:36 a.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2008 11:11 p.m. EDT

— Wake County commissioners on Tuesday decided to make an additional $80 million available for school projects that were shorted funds after the county was unable to sell bonds.

The money means that all new school projects will continue in addition to all major renovation projects, with the exception of Wilburn Elementary’s relocation plan, which will be reviewed in March.

Last month, the county shelved a $450 million bond sale because credit markets had frozen amid the national economic crisis. The bonds were to have paid for new schools and libraries and expansions at Wake Technical Community College.

“It would mean that we would have crowded schools. We may not be able to have seats for all students,” school board Chairwoman Rosa Gill said.

Last week, the Wake Board of Commissioners voted to float a short-term, $300 million bond anticipation note to fund projects that had already started and to carry the county until the markets improved enough for a regular bond sale.

The $80 million would have been used for funding later in the building process, but was moved up to be used now, officials said.

"It was a surprise, a great surprise,” Gill said.

Delays in planned school construction caused by the unstable economy would have disrupted long-range student assignment plans, Wake County school officials said.

The district had promised to let parents know what school their children would be assigned to for the next three years. The idea was to make things more predictable for families who have always received the information on a year-to-year basis.

The $80 million means that multiyear assignment plans will be handed out, but will be delayed by a few weeks. Officials said Tuesday that the second and third year assignments will be based on proper funding, officials said.

Also as a result of the decision, a program that keeps computers and technology up to date will continue.

“That’s imperative. We have to keep technology updated in all of our schools, all across the county,” school board member Beverley Clark said.

Wake County school board members were scheduled to meet Tuesday to decide which projects they must delay in light of the tough economic times.

"We are not sure what is going to happen with the economy tomorrow or next week, or next month, or six months from now,” said Don Haydon, the school district's chief facilities and operations officer.

School district officials met last week to discuss how to reschedule building projects to accommodate reduced financing.