Wake Ed

Wake County leaders to discuss school construction needs

Workers at the new Oakview Elementary School clean the concrete in what will be the cafeteria/multi purpose room December 8, 2015 in Holly Springs, N.C. The Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board will hold a joint meeting on April 26, 2016 to discuss the next round of new construction needs.
Workers at the new Oakview Elementary School clean the concrete in what will be the cafeteria/multi purpose room December 8, 2015 in Holly Springs, N.C. The Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board will hold a joint meeting on April 26, 2016 to discuss the next round of new construction needs. cliddy@newsobserver.com

This evening’s joint meeting of the Wake County school board and Board of Commissioners could provide clarity on whether voters will be asked to approve a school construction bond referendum this year or in 2018.

The focus of Tuesday’s joint meeting is on how to fund Wake’s school construction needs in the face of projections of 32,000 more students arriving by 2025. School staff have identified $1.4 billion in construction needs.

Both boards have to agree on the size of the next school construction building program. It’s ultimately up to the Wake County Board of Commissioners how to fund those projects, but the school system will want to know how much to expect in the next two years or four years.

One option is to put a school construction bond referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot and ask voters for approval to use the traditional method of issuing general obligation bonds. It’s already going to be a crowded ballot with things such as a likely referendum asking Wake voters to approve raising sales taxes by a half-cent to help pay for the transit plan.

Another option is for the county to issue limited obligation bonds to pay for projects until a school construction bond is put on the ballot in 2018. Wake can’t hold a bond referendum in 2017 because of a state law passed in 2014 limiting countywide bond votes to elections when all the polling places would already be open.

At this month’s school board facilities committee meeting, county staff were saying that it doesn’t matter which method is used because commissioners are legally obligated to meet school construction needs. But as the ongoing fights over state education funding has shown, there can be a gap between what people say is needed and what actually gets provided.

The school board would need to pass a resolution on June 7 to meet statutory deadlines for putting a school bond on this fall’s ballot.

The joint meeting is scheduled to start in the school system’s Crossroads II building, 110 Corning Road in Cary.

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