RALEIGH — Wake County voters overwhelmingly approved $200 million in bonds to expand Wake Technical Community College.
According to unofficial results, 73 percent of county voters said “yes” to the borrowing.
“I am ecstatic,” said Wake Tech President Stephen Scott. “We are so grateful to Wake County.”
Once construction is complete, Scott said, the college will be able to accommodate 50 percent enrollment growth.
The $200 million would be used to add buildings at the community college’s bustling Northern Wake campus and start construction on a new Research Triangle Park branch in Morrisville. The main campus south of Raleigh would get repairs, and the Public Safety Education campus would be finished.
County officials have said the bond issue would not require a tax increase, but it would absorb the county’s borrowing capacity, meaning a future bond issue for K-12 schools almost certainly would lead to a tax increase.
Voters have supported two bond issues for Wake Tech in the past decade – $40 million in 2004 and $92 million in 2007.
The community college, like Wake County itself, has experienced steep growth in recent years. The recession and slow recovery have nudged unemployed workers back to class to upgrade their skills, and students seeking an affordable path to a college degree have flocked to Wake Tech. For the first time this fall, degree-seeking students surpassed the 20,000 mark, and some 5,400 were on the waiting list for classes. Wake Tech officials say the college serves one of eight adults in the county; 66,000 took at least one course there.
The money would be spent during a four-year period starting in 2013. About 500,000 square feet of new building space would be constructed, as well as 4,500 additional parking spots. A new Research Triangle Park campus would take shape with three buildings, a parking lot, roads and other infrastructure.
The Wake Tech bonds had no organized opposition.
The Wake County Taxpayers Association, a government watchdog group, supported the bond issue, despite concerns about the size of the borrowing and the fact that future Wake school bonds would require a tax hike.
The association’s board had issued a statement saying it supported Wake Tech “for the opportunity it provides for excellent job training for an ever increasing large number of students and we acknowledge the need for new space to handle future enrollment numbers.”