Wake County (N.C.) schools will have to wait until 2018 for bond election

Wake County (N.C.) schools will have to wait until 2018 for bond election

School board had hoped to have a bond election this November so it could begin addressing the district's $2 billion in facility needs.

The Wake County (N.C.) school board had hoped to put a bond issue before voters this fall to begin addressing its massive facility needs, but county commissioners have decided to wait until May 2018 to schedule a referendum.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the Wake County Board of Commissioners has approved an ordinance that would provide the school system with $397 million in funding without putting a bond request on the ballot. That would enable the district to pay for the first two years of its $1.98 billion, seven-year construction plan.

The county commissioner's plan is to schedule a school bond referendum in May 2018 to provide $986 million for the next stage of the building program.

The county board had already decided to ask voters in November to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation improvements, but commissioners said their decision to defer a school bond election had nothing to do with the sales tax proposal.

The seven-year construction plan for the steadily growing district calls for 14 new schools, 11 major renovations and other projects. Wake County had about 157,000 students in 2015-16.

Commissioners had briefly considered putting a school construction bond referendum on the ballot this November. But they decided that their plan to use a mix of limited-obligation bonds—borrowing that doesn’t require voter approval—and general-obligation bonds issued through a bond referendum is the right strategy.

May 2018 is the next date a referendum could be held after this November. A new state law says bond votes can be scheduled only during primaries and general elections in even-numbered years. Wake County voters last approved a bond issue—an $810 million proposal—in 2013.

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