Wake school board gives initial OK to $940 million in projects

khui@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2013 

— The Wake County school board gave preliminary approval Tuesday to $940 million in construction projects that they hope to fund largely through a bond referendum this fall.

The list includes 16 new schools, full renovations for six schools, starting renovations on three schools, and other projects. It will be presented at next week’s joint meeting with the Wake County Board of Commissioners, who jointly agreed with the school board last month on a school construction program of about $900 million.

“This is the board’s recommended priorities for the bond,” school board Chairman Keith Sutton said.

The board is scheduled to give final approval to the list May 21, a required step for commissioners to place a bond issue on the ballot.

It’s not expected to be an easy campaign to persuade the public to approve a bond issue.

Judging from earlier estimates, county taxpayers would see a property tax rate increase of more than 5 cents to pay for the bonds required to finance the construction projects.

Two weeks ago, the school facilities staff presented a $925 million list of projects that drew complaints from some board members because it left out several long-sought renovation projects, particularly in Garner.

But school staff members say they were able to address the issue in part by taking advantage of $43 million in unspent school bonds that the county is selling this spring. They’re also proposing using $10 million from the projected sale of school-system properties.

The schools staff is using that $53 million to shift projects off the list to appear on the fall ballot. This $53 million list includes funding for long-sought renovations for Athens Drive High School’s stadium in Raleigh and security upgrades to schools. These include making sure that all schools have the same number of surveillance cameras and that all elementary schools have an electronic locking system and a buzzer system for the front entrance.

Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, said the $53 million list can be modified if the bond issue is defeated.

The shuffling of the projects, along with reductions to some projects, allowed more renovations to be funded, including projects at Vandora Springs Elementary School in Garner and Garner High School.

“I’m much more comfortable with this list than what I saw two weeks ago,” said board member Susan Evans.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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