CHAPEL HILL- Both Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are facing multi-million dollar repairs to fix up aging facilities, but Orange County Commissioners worry there’s not enough time to put together a $100 million dollar bond package before a September deadline to get it on the ballot for the General Election.
“I’m a little concerned that if we shoot for 2014 we’re not going to do a very good job of getting everything in place and take a chance that it will not pass,” said Board Vice-Chair Earl McKee.
He and fellow board members are also wary of taking up bond planning while the county is in the process of searching for a new manager, a search that’s taking longer than expected.
At a work session on Tuesday, commissioners expressed little interest in pushing to meet the deadline for a ballot measure this year, instead eyeing the timing of future referendums.
But some, including Mark Dorosin, worry rural residents would be disenfranchised if the county-wide bond went to the voters in 2015, when only municipal races are on the ballot.
“If you look back at the turnout for an “off” year versus an “on” year mid-term election, there’s more than 25 percent greater turnout,” said Dorosin.
Instead, commissioners said they’d consider May 2016, when turnout is expected to be high for the presidential and gubernatorial primaries, though the board did not rule out the possibility of putting the measure up for a vote next year.
Commissioners say they want input from staff on the timing and process of crafting a bond package, as well as more information from both school systems about what projects are top priorities.
The last bond referendum in 2001 netted the county an additional $75 million for school, parks, senior centers and housing. The proposed $100 million dollar bond would be the county’s largest in recent history. But even that would be a drop in the bucket, as the school districts’ combined list of repairs is estimated to be more than the county’s entire $192 million dollar annual operating budget.
Board Chair Barry Jacobs said voters should know the upcoming bond referendum could be the first of several.
“The needs are too big for one bond cycle, so we say that we’re going to have several bonds over a period of time to address several hundred million dollars worth of school needs for both systems,” said Jacobs.
The board will discuss creating a possible bond planning task force in the near future.
Meanwhile, the Chapel Hill Town Council is eyeing its own $20 million dollar bond package to replace or upgrade aging facilities. That measure could potentially go on the ballot in 2017.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/orange-bocc-backs-2014-bond-referendum/
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board approved a 10-year spending plan on Thursday totaling $16.8 million, but members acknowledged the Capital Investment Plan does not include an estimated $87 million in unfunded needs, including $45 million worth of basic repairs to the district’s 10 oldest schools.
William Mullin, Executive Director of School Facilities, told the board that $45 million would bring the aging schools up to current safety and accessibility standards, but would not increase student capacity.
Without modifying existing schools to add room for more students, administrators estimate the district will need a new elementary and middle school by 2020, at a projected cost of $80 million.
Mullin told commissioners the district is receiving about $800,000 annually from the quarter cent sales tax approved by voters in 2011. Half of that is earmarked for technology needs, the rest for repairing older schools. While that will add up approximately $8.8 million by 2024, Mullin said it is not nearly enough to address the district’s needs.
The school board will discuss aging facilities and school capacity at its planning retreat on Tuesday. Administrators will present the capital plan to the Board of County Commissioners later this month.
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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/bocc-eyes-older-schools-for-bond-referendum/