Wake County commissioners put school bonds on ballot

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Monday, August 6, 2018
Wake County commissioners put school bonds on ballot
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Wake County commissioners put school bonds on ballot

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- Wake County Commissioners gave the public a chance to be heard Monday on three bond referenda that would raise property taxes if approved by voters in November, but no one signed up in advance to speak.

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A $548 million, two-year bond referendum for the Wake County Public School System, paid for with a 2.3 cent property tax rate hike, would go toward covering construction costs on seven new schools, renovations on 11 others, as well as equipment repairs and land acquisition.

A $349 million, four-year bond referendum for Wake Tech Community College, with a 1.15 cent property tax rate increase would pay for future capital needs.

Voters will also see a $120 million, six-year bond referendum, paid for with a 35-cent tax hike, to cover county recreation upgrades and expansion.

Commissioners adopted all three bond orders after the brief public hearing during its regularly scheduled meeting. Only one woman decided to speak, questioning the timing of funding capital needs at Wake Tech.

If voters approve all three bonds in the fall, taxpayers will see a 3.8-cent property tax increase or an additional $95 to the tax bill on a $250,000 home.

Jessica Holmes, Commission Chair, said voters expect them to invest in the school system.

"It's also an investment when it comes to bringing businesses to Wake County," said Holmes. "They know that when they come here they don't have to put their children in private schools or charter schools. We have an exceptional public school system."

Now that voters will be faced with whether to approve the bond referenda and accompanying tax increases, a government watchdog is urging them to do their homework.

Ed Jones, Chairman of the non-partisan Wake County Taxpayers Association, opposes the bonds. He suggests commissioners find a way to convert existing buildings into schools to meet the need for more classrooms. He also wants more voters to analyze the existing budget to see where the money is going.

"The county is bound to be taking in many many more dollars in tax receipts and the question that people need to ask themselves, is it necessary for the county to accomplish their necessary goals- not what we want, but what is needed for the people to be served well - is it necessary to pass these bonds?" said Jones.

Holmes said voters can be confident they've explored every option when it comes to building schools, including building smaller schools and using existing spaces.

"We're stretching every dollar to the maximum amount," she said.