The schools will be built no matter what.
The schools will be built If the bond referendum passes, and taxes will go up if the bond referendum passes.
The schools will be built If the bond referendum fails, but taxes will go up even higher if the bond referendum fails.
That’s the issue being decided by the ballot question in this election. Do voters want a small tax increase or a big tax increase? A yes vote is for a small tax increase. So small, in fact, most residential property owners would be able to absorb the cost. The Friends of Wake County estimate a property valued at $200,000 would experience a $46 increase and a property valued at $400,000 would experience a $96 increase per year.
The school bond referendum is not a question of, “Should we build new schools?” Rather, it’s a question of “What is the most fiscally responsible way to pay for schools Wake County is constitutionally obligated to build?”
Property taxes are the primary source of paying for school renovation and construction. The state does not pay for or finance school construction. Renovating to add capacity to aging schools, building new schools to alleviate crowding, improving technology resources, and upgrading student safety and school security require new spending to meet the needs of a growing school system in one of the fastest growing counties in America.
There are three ways Wake County can pay for school construction: Cash on hand, bonds without a voter-approved referendum, and voter-approved bonds. Guess which is the cheapest cost to the taxpayer? The voter-approved bond referendum.
Wake County is one of a handful of counties nationwide with a highly coveted Triple-A bond rating, which means Wake can pay the lowest available interest rates on its debt because of very prudent fiscal management in the County Manager’s Office.
Not only is Wake one of the most fiscally responsible counties in the country, it is also one of the fastest growing ones. The county government’s own estimates suggest that the county population increases by about 63 people per day, and among those people are enough school-aged children to fill a classroom. While not all those children are enrolling in the Wake County Public School System all at once, the schools still enroll about 2,000 additional students each year. That’s roughly equivalent to a new high school, or two middle schools, or four elementary schools.
The only way to accommodate those new students is to build new spaces for them to learn, and Wake County government is required by the state constitution to provide enough seats for the students who enroll. Overcrowded schools are not only bad for student outcomes and teacher retention, but in Kindergarten through third grade class size is limited to an average of 17 students. Once that cap is reached, additional classrooms are needed.
That’s another reason why paying for school construction with borrowing is fiscally responsible. The taxpayers who arrive here after the renovations are complete, the new schools are built, and the improvements are made will help pay for that construction in real time. Today’s taxpayers don’t carry the freight for tomorrow’s newcomers. The cost is shared over time.
This next phase of the rolling seven-year Capital Improvement Plan isn’t solely dedicated to construction in the growing areas of the county. Several older schools will be renovated with funds from this bond, and those renovations will include increased capacity as well.
For all these reasons and more, the business leaders of Wake County, many of them also among the largest property tax payers in the county, have joined together with WakeEd Partnership, the Wake County Board of Education, Wake County Commissioners, and the 12 Chambers of Commerce, among others to support this school renovation and construction bond referendum.
WakeEd encourages the voters of Wake County to support the most cost-effective way to pay for school renovation and construction by voting “Yes” on the bond referendum during early voting and on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6. The question is on the back of the ballot, so don’t forget to flip your ballot before putting it in the box!