BoCC Eyes Older Schools For Bond Referendum

By Elizabeth Friend Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:47 pm

HILLSBOROUGH- Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday signaled they may be willing to shift the focus of a proposed $100 million bond referendum.

In a prior discussion, the board talked about getting voter approval to finance a new jail, and a fifth middle school for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system. Those two projects alone total $73 million.

But school board members from both the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County districts say aging schools are badly in need of repair, and fixing those could cost as much as $230 million.

Commissioner Mark Dorosin said he’d like some guarantee from district officials that renovating older schools would increase student capacity, delaying the need for new buildings.

“I think if we’re going to put any money into the renovation of these older schools, which is much needed, I think we should demand that any renovation increase capacity, whether it’s in the middle school or the elementary school,” said Dorosin. “Whatever those plans are, that money should have as an additional benefit that it is going to push out the next elementary school, the next middle school, the next high school, whatever it is.”

If voters approve a $100 million dollar bond package, Assistant County Manager Clarence Grier told the board that could mean raising the tax rate by 4.18 cents for the next 20 years to cover the $6.7 million annual debt payments.

In order to get the referendum on the ballot for the November 2014 election, the school boards and commissioners must come up with a list of priorities by early June.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro administrators have already completed a detailed assessment of the district’s older buildings, while Orange County school officials have a study underway. County Commissioners will discuss the timing of the possible bond package at a meeting later this fall.

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