Wake County

Wake voters face 3 bonds this election. Here’s what you need to know about them.

The worksite at the new Oakview Elementary School is full of activity as construction continues on Dec. 8, 2015, in Holly Springs, N.C.
The worksite at the new Oakview Elementary School is full of activity as construction continues on Dec. 8, 2015, in Holly Springs, N.C. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Wake County voters will see three local bond referendums on their November ballot.

The total cost: $1.1 billion

If all three items are approved, county taxpayers would see their taxes rise 3.8-cents per $100 of assessed property value, or $133 per year on a $350,00 home.

The money would fund years worth of construction and capital improvements for Wake County Public Schools, Wake Technical Community College and the county’s parks, recreation and open space efforts.

What’s on the ballot?

There are three separate bond questions for voters to consider on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot:

$548 million for Wake County Public School System construction over the next two years,

$349.1 million for Wake Technical Community College construction for the next four years and

$120 million for parks, open space and recreation construction for the next six years.

How much will it cost?

Each bond item has a corresponding county property tax rate increase, so what you’ll ultimately pay depends on which bonds are approved.



The tax rate increase for the WCPSS construction would be 2.3 cents per $100 if approved, 1.15 cents per $100 for Wake Tech’s bond and 0.35 cents per $100 for the parks, open space and recreation bond.

Commissioners and county staff stress that the county will be responsible for WCPSS and Wake Tech’s construction needs and that they will build and repair schools regardless of whether the bonds are approved. It would just be more expensive without the bonds.

A voter referendum is required for the county to issue general obligation bonds, which the county says is the least expensive financing option available to them. Wake County estimates the county would save $50 million through the 20 years of the bond.

What school projects are planned?

The ballot doesn’t list specific projects. That gives the county some flexibility in case of an emergency, if economic factors change or unique opportunities present themselves. But we do have some idea of the intended projects.

WCPSS relies on the seven-year construction plan agreed on by both the commissioners and Wake County school board. Of the $548 million, $140 million is planned for new schools including South Lakes Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, a middle school in Fuquay-Varina, an elementary school in Apex, two elementary schools in southwest Wake County, a new high school in southwest Wake County and an unidentified elementary school.

The construction plan calls for about $280 million of the school bond to go toward complete and partial renovations at these schools: Wiley Elementary, Stough Elementary, East Wake Middle, Conn Elementary, Fuquay-Varina High, Fuller Elementary, York Elementary, Swift Creek Elementary, West Millbrook Middle, Baucom Elementary and an unidentified middle school.

To round out the rest of the school bond money, $89 million would go to technology, infrastructure and property management and there’s $36 million for contingency and management.

What about the park projects?

Again, the wording is intentionally vague, but we have a rough idea of what would be included in the bond thanks to the county’s open space and park master plans.

About $46 million would go toward the county’s open space and greenway program. That money could be used to acquire 1,800 acres for future parks and open space and build about 15 miles of greenways. Those greenways would bridge gaps in the greenway system or help a greenway reach a major park or area.

There’s about $40 million that would go to existing park renovations that could range from adding park benches to adding a nature or education center. Another $40 million would go toward building new parks and nature preserves.

Specific parks that could open or be renovated include Lake Myra Park, Kellam-Wyatt Farm Preserve, Robertson Millpond Preserve, Sinclair Nature Preserve and the Southeast Park.

It was originally unclear whether the controversial South Wake Park Project — the former Crooked Creek Golf Course purchased by the Wake County commissioners — would be included in the bond. But now it looks like it will not be in the bond. County staff have said it wouldn’t and it’s not included in educational material created by the county, though county commissioners could change priorities and move forward with different park projects.

And the Wake Tech bond?

If approved, most of the bond money — $309 million — would go toward major projects such as the community college’s new Research Triangle Park campus. Some of those projects include a simulation building for the Public Safety Education campus, an auto and collision repair building and health science lab and parking deck on the North Wake campus, a joint facility and parking deck in the Southern Wake campus, plus buildings and parking decks for the RTP campus.

About $24 million would go toward repairs and renovations, including heating and air conditioning and electrical work and $16 million for infrastructure upgrades such as improving accessibility and a mass notification system.

When is the vote?

People can vote early at 10 different locations now through Nov. 3. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Didn’t we just pass a bond?

Counties and cities have included a number of bonds and issues on the ballots in recent years. The last school bond was in October 2013 for $810 million. It passed with 57.7 percent voter approval.

And it was in November 2012 that Wake Tech saw a $200 million bond, which was approved with 72.9 percent voter approval.

The last open space bond was in 2007 for $50 million and passed with 71.4 percent voter approval. In 1993, the county had the last bond for parks and recreation. It was for $10 million and passed with a 50.5 percent voter approval.

The Wake County Transit Plan — and paying for it with a half-cent transit-designated sales-tax increase — was on the county ballot in 2016, but that wasn’t a general obligation bond.

Will this be the last set of bonds?

Probably not.

The current school bond would only cover two-years worth of construction. Wake County commissioners reviewed a bond schedule that includes a $562 million school construction bond voters could consider in November 2020. That would come with a 0.85 cent increase to the property tax rate though those numbers are early. Voters could also see a $652 million school construction bond in late 2022.

The current Wake Tech bond only covers four-years worth of construction for the community college and another bond could be expected in 2022.

What’s the text of the school bond?

“Shall the order adopted on August 6,2018, authorizing SCHOOL BONDS of the County of Wake, North Carolina in an amount not to exceed$548,000,000 plus interest, for the purpose of providing funds to construct, renovate, expand, improve and equip school buildings and other school facilities, including associated real estate costs, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?”

What’s the text of the Wake Tech bond?

“Shall the order adopted on August 6,2018, authorizing COMMUNITYCOLLEGE BONDS of the County of Wake, North Carolina in an amount not to exceed $349,000,000 plus interest, for the purpose of providing funds to construct, renovate, expand,improve and equip community college facilities for Wake Technical Community College, including associated real estate costs, and providing that additional taxes maybe levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?”

What’s the text of the park bond?

“Shall the order adopted on August 6,2018, authorizing PARKS,GREENWAYS, RECREATION, ANDOPEN SPACE BONDS of the County of Wake, North Carolina in an amount not to exceed $120,000,000plus interest, for the purpose of providing funds for improving and expanding existing parks, greenways, and recreational facilities and acquiring and constructing new parks, greenways, and recreational facilities, including facilities developed jointly with other governmental entities, and including the acquisition of open space land and other land for recreational use,the acquisition of rights of way and the furnishing of incidental facilities and equipment in connection therewith, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?”

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