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Wake May Ask Taxpayers To Fund School Construction

A Wake County Public Schools building.
Brian Batista
A Wake County Public Schools building.

Wake County school officials say they need $1 billion to build new schools and renovate older ones. Homeowners may be asked this spring if they want to fund the projects.

That depends on whether or not Wake County commissioners and school board members agree to put a school bond referendum on the May 2018 ballot. If passed, the county’s property taxes would go up.

Wake County commissioners have increased property tax rates for the past four years. Even with the recent hikes, homeowners in Wake County currently pay less in property taxes than residents of other large North Carolina counties. The owner of a $400,000 home in Wake currently pays about $2,500 a year in property taxes.

Wake County school board members must formally request the bond referendum by early December for the measure to appear on the May 2018 ballot. The Board of Commissioners would then vote to approve or reject the request in February.

If the referendum takes place this May, it may face competition for taxpayer dollars. There's a possibility residents will also be voting on a sales tax increase of one half-cent to fund affordable housing and park projects.

Wake County’s school construction program faces another hurdle, in that the system must find a significant amount of classroom space to comply with state-mandated K-3 class size reductions. School officials have to make room for the equivalent of 9,500 students or 14 additional elementary schools by the 2018-2019 school year.

Lisa Philip is an occasional contributor to WUNC. Previously, she covered education for the station and covered schools in Howard County, Maryland for the Baltimore Sun newspapers.
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