Wake County Commissioners agreed unanimously Monday night to give preliminary approval to three bond questions that could go on that county's November election ballots. A proposed $548 million public school bond would fund planned school construction and renovation in the rapidly growing county.
The county's short-term school construction plan includes construction of one new elementary and one new middle school, renovations at six schools and design work for future projects.
“Those are the needs of the schools … for the increasing population and for maintaining schools up to the standards that we expect,” said Wake County Commissioner John Burns. “We are constitutionally bound to do that.”
The last school bond referendum for Wake County Schools was passed in 2013. That funding will end in 2020. The proposed bond would fund two more years of the county’s seven year plan for school construction and renovation.
Two other bond proposals would ask voters if they want the county to finance construction for Wake Tech Community College and maintenance of county parks and greenways.
Burns supports all three bonds, and says he fully expects the bond questions to move forward and go on voters' November ballots. Burns says a county bond is the best way to finance the county’s capital needs.
“General obligation bonds are the least expensive way to have that money, for the taxpayer,” Burns said. “These bonds are well within the county's debt capacity.”
Wake County bonds have a triple-A rating and the county has one of the lowest tax rates in the state. The school bond would add 2.3 cents to the county’s tax rate. The alternative is to use cash.
“If you were buying a house, and you had to buy it in cash, without borrowing any money you'd have to come up with that amount of cash all at once. You don't do that, I don't do that, and governments don't do that,” Burns said. “We borrow money for capital investment and you want to borrow it at the least expensive rate you can.”