Wake Ed

Sig Hutchinson suggests having transit and schools on fall ballot

Wake County commissioner Sig Hutchinson takes a photo of a scale model Bombardier bi-level commuter train. Hutchinson is suggesting his fellow commissioners consider putting a school construction bond referendum and a transit referendum on the November 2016 ballot.
Wake County commissioner Sig Hutchinson takes a photo of a scale model Bombardier bi-level commuter train. Hutchinson is suggesting his fellow commissioners consider putting a school construction bond referendum and a transit referendum on the November 2016 ballot. cseward@newsobserver.com

Updated to add Jessica Holmes to story.

One of the leaders of the Wake County Board of Commissioners is suggesting giving voters the chance to decide on both a school bond referendum and a transit referendum this year.

Commissioners are considering skipping a school bond referendum this year, which would put a vote on raising sales tax a half cent to help fund the $2.3 billion transit plan as the only referendum on the November ballot. But in a tweet Monday, Sig Hutchinson, the board’s vice chairman, said commissioners should consider adding a school bond referendum on the fall ballot in addition to the transit referendum.

Later on Monday, Commissioner Jessica Holmes tweeted that she agreed with Hutchinson.

During last week’s joint meeting of the commissioners and school board, county staff presented the idea of paying for school construction with a mixture of bonds that require voter approval and bonds that don’t. Commissioners could use this new approach for the first time if they issue limited-obligation bonds in lieu of a November school bond referendum.

Some commissioners say the new approach would provide a reliable and stable means of funding school construction. Some commissioners also say it could confuse and overburden voters to have both school bonds and transit on the November ballot.

But any delay on a 2016 referednum means commissioners wouldn’t be allowed under state law to hold a school bond referedum until 2018.

If commissioners opt to not raise taxes, they could provide an additional $440 million in the next two years through limited-obligation bonds to cover county capital needs.

School board members said at the joint meeting that the new approach is interesting. But several school board members raised concerns that the district might not get enough money to keep up with growth if commissioners skip a bond referendum and only authorize $440 million.

During the joint meeting, Hutchinson said commissioners need to be deliberate and very careful before embarking on this new method of paying for school construction.

“Nothing has been determined here,” Hutchinson said. “We are still in conversations with both boards. We are in conversations with the community.

“We need to be listening to our community to see how they’re feeling about this plan, as well as how the boards are feeling about this plan.”

  Comments