Wake schools seek voter support for ongoing building plan
Posted November 2, 2018 6:32 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — As enrollment in Wake County schools continues to grow, school district administrators are scrambling to keep up.
New schools have opened each fall in recent years, while older ones have been renovated and expanded to accommodate more students.
Wake County leaders and the Wake County Public School System are now asking voters to approve $548 million in general obligation bonds in next Tuesday's election so the building plan can keep pace with growth in the coming years.
The money would help build five elementary schools – four will be in the southern part of the county – a middle school in Fuquay-Varina and a high school in southwest Wake County, as well as renovate 11 others, from north Raleigh to Fuquay-Varina. Bond funds also will go toward buying land for future schools and upgrading security and classroom technology.
"You are always in that mode of needing additional seats," said Steve Parrott, president of Wake Education Partnership and a bond supporter. "It aligns with what we are expecting in terms of enrollment and growth in the district."
Approving the bonds would add about $46 to the annual tax bill on a $200,000 home.
Robb Ward, part of the AgainstTheBonds.com Referendum Committee, said voters should reject the bonds, which he says would place a long-term burden on future generations of Wake County residents.
"Creating more debt for them to be responsible is what we are doing with these bond issues," Ward said, noting that the county has piled on debt through several bond issues in recent years.
Voters also are being asked in this year's election whether to approve $349 million in bonds to expand Wake Technical Community College and $120 million for parks, greenways and open space in the county.
"It is one of the fastest-growing things in the county," Ward said of debt service payments.
The school district needs to be smarter about how it spends the money it already has, he said. Buildings aren't being used for their full 50-year life cycles, and smaller repairs could be made to older buildings to get more life out of them, he said.
"We are not being responsible with our money," he said.
But bond supporters insist bonds are the responsible way to pay for schools that must be built anyway.
"We are estimating that, if we vote yes, we approve this bond, we will save in interest over the 20-year life of the bond around $25 million," Parrott said.