Local Politics

Wake County commissioner candidates agree: Schools need more

Posted October 11, 2012 9:21 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2012 9:29 p.m. EDT

— Candidates running for three open seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners met for a forum Thursday night to discuss issues facing the county, including growth, planning and mass transit.

The forum was sponsored by WakeUP Wake County and the League of Women Voters of Wake County.

Democratic candidates Caroline Sullivan, who is running in District 4, and Paul Fitts, a Republican running for the District 6 seat, joined Democratic incumbents James West, District 5, and Betty Lou Ward, District 6, for the event.

Sullivan's opponent, Republican Dale Cooke, was absent from the forum.

One topic centered on school growth management and the need for a school construction bond.

Wake County has the largest school system in the state, and it's growing each year by up to 5,000 additional students, according to the school system. The school system sees a need for approximately three new schools a year to accommodate the influx of students.

All candidates said they support a construction bond. Fitts said it is inevitable but that the county and the school system should exhaust all possible avenues, such as renovating existing buildings, before moving forward with one.

"Are we continually using our best innovation possible to save taxpayers money?" he said.

His opponent, Ward, however, said, "the sooner, the better."

Each candidate also said they agree more money needs to be provided to the school system. Fitts suggested looking at ways to save money in the school system, such as more energy-efficient schools and buses, e-readers instead of textbooks and selling unused property to generate additional revenue.

Ward said the commission needs to re-examine where money is coming from, where it's going and how the school board and county board can be better partners.