Orange County Commissioners Appoint Members to Bond Education Committee

Orange County Commissioners have appointed Jamezetta Bedford, Matt Hughes and Theresa Watson to fill three of the four at-large positions on the Bond Education Committee.

The three positions were filled by a 4-2 vote at the board’s meeting on Thursday with Commissioner Renee Price and Penny Rich dissenting.

The committee will help design and develop a campaign to help spread important information about the bond to the community, according to earlier discussions from the board.

The upcoming bond package is the largest in county history at $125 million; the bulk of the money will be designated to make repairs and update safety concerns at local schools. The remaining $5 million will be used to increase affordable housing.

Hughes and Bedford both ran unsuccessfully for seats on the Board of County Commissioners this March. Hughes has been chair of the Orange County Democrats for several years and Bedford has long served on the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Board of Education until she decided not to seek reelection last November.

Watson also mounted an unsuccessful run for an elected position recently, campaigning for the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School Board in November.

One appointed seat on the Bond Education Committee remains unfilled at this time.

Commissioners also voted to designate $20,000 to the County Manager to “support the Committee’s work and assistance through a vendor/consultant.”

The bonds, $120 million for schools and $5 million for affordable housing, will be on the November ballot in Orange County.

Town Council Talks About Debt

In preparation for a possible bond issuance, Chapel Hill’s business management director Kenneth Pennoyer gave the town council an update on how the town is handling its current debt in their meeting Wednesday night.

“There are 81 overall projects that we are currently tracking,” he said. “Of those 51 are projects that are funded and are in progress.”

The 51 active projects total $36.7 million, while $94 million is expected to cover the 30 projects planned, but yet to be financed.

Voters allowed the town in 2015 to issue up to $40.3 million in bond money.

The bond is scheduled to finance many of these planned projects, but any issuance has to first go through an approval process with the town council.

“I’ve had people ask me ‘when are we going to spend that money,'” Pennoyer said. “And I told them ‘there is no money, at least we haven’t borrowed it yet.'”

He equated the bond referendum passed by the public in November as being pre-approved for a loan.

Some of the projects scheduled to be funded by bond money include bike lane improvements, park renovations and a solid waste facility.

A few of these planned projects are progressing, even without funding from the bond.

“We will use as much internal financing as we can to get projects moving so that when we get to the point where we’re ready to issue debt, projects have reached a state of maturity that we’ll have a better idea of how much they’ll actually cost.”

Pennoyer said the town is in a good position to take on new debt because it has a Triple A rating and a debt per capita of 714 dollars, lower than other AAA rated cities such as Durham, Charlotte and Raleigh.

He said he expects the town to issue the bond sometime in December or January.

Do we need the Pat McCrory Bond Referendum?

Wiley Post

Wiley Post

Am I the only one feeling we are getting the short end of the stick during the short session of the General Assembly?

I have a few questions on the bond referendum Pat McCrory has requested to be placed on the March 15 primary ballot.

Is this as an effort to improve his image before the 2016 elections?

Listen to Wiley Post’s commentary

First, if these projects are so important to our state they should be budgeted, so those who want them are paying for them today, not irresponsibly forcing others to pay the debt and interest for these items later.

Could this blow up Art Pope’s tax cuts?  I hear from Pat that this $2 billion debt being proposed “will not require a tax increase” in order to pay it off. The taxpayers of North Carolina will be forced to pay, whether it is by a tax increase or by taking money away from other future priorities in order to pay for the pet projects of today.

Why place them on the Primary ballot when fewer voters will turn out to vote?  Remember Amendment One?  With only a 35% voter turnout it passed with only 1 out of 5 registered voter’s approving because of such a low turnout.

He doesn’t want everybody to vote.  Elections have never been won by a majority of people, even from the beginning of our country and they are not being won now.  As a matter of fact, his leverage in this primary election goes up as the voting turnout goes down.

Why not wait until November elections when North Carolina voter turnout is 68-70%?

The problems we face in this election year are many.  With voter ID, compacted voting sites, fewer days, and now primaries months ahead of previous years. This has placed many burdens on the poor, young and elderly.

So getting back to my questions.

Do we want this, do we need this and most of all, can we afford this?

–Wiley Post



Chapel Hill’s November Ballot Could Include $40M Bond Referendum

Chapel Hill residents could vote in November on whether to approve $40 million in bond financing to fund some of the town’s high-priority projects.

At Monday night’s town council meeting, Ken Pennoyer, business management director for Chapel Hill, said the town’s high-priority capital projects over the next ten years include building a new police headquarters and replacing fire stations for a combined cost of $30 million. Town officials also want to spend $6 million in stormwater improvements and replace 40 aging buses, which will cost $21 million.

Pennoyer proposed using $50 million of “installment financing” to fund some of these projects (including the police and fire buildings and the new buses). For example, Chapel Hill could borrow money from a local bank to pay for some buses, and pay off the debt in installments over a number of years. This doesn’t require a referendum.

“The main difference between the two is the security,” said Pennoyer. “General obligation bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the town. Installment financings are backed by an asset, one that’s considered essential to the town’s function.”

The town may finance the projects using both methods, but Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the council should advocate for bond financing. If approved, he said, it could save residents money.

Pennoyer said each of the suggested bond orders would be a separate vote. Those votes would be on financing the following projects:

  • streets and sidewalks
  • trails and green-ways
  • recreational facilities
  • solid waste facility
  • stormwater improvements


On March 23 at Chapel Hill Town Hall, the town council will finalize a referendum plan. That meeting is at 7pm.

Chapel Hill officials are scheduled to work out details of the bond funding over the next couple of months and hold a public hearing in June.

Orange BoCC Backs Off 2014 Bond Referendum

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.

CHTC Sets Priorities For 2014 And Beyond

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council met with the town’s senior management team this weekend to prioritize policy goals based on the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive plan.

Council members agreed on the need for more affordable housing, new youth initiatives, a sustainable funding model for Chapel Hill Transit and a long-term solid waste solution.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said within 18 months the Council will be ready to decide what to do with the town’s trash.

“The staff really wants this decision made,” said Kleinschmidt. “There are on-going conversations with Orange County, with Carrboro and with the City of Durham about how we can cooperate. Now, maybe all those jurisdictions don’t come together, but there’s some secret match of jurisdictions that can come together to provide those solutions. We don’t know what that’s going to be yet.”

Currently the town pays to haul trash to Durham since the Orange County landfill has closed, but staffers say the town should explore the possibility of building and operating a waste transfer station on town-owned land, a project that could cost $5.1 million.

One of the biggest challenges facing the town is the need to replace or upgrade town facilities and infrastructure.

Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer laid out more than $100 million dollars in capital needs to be financed over the next two decades, including a new police station, four fire stations and completion of the parks master plan.

“We have a fairly significant wish list and needs list of projects that we need to accomplish within the next twenty years, so balancing that is a difficult challenge,” said Pennoyer.

The Council will consider planning for a $20 million bond referendum to go on the ballot in 2017.

In addition, Council members discussed the need for increased economic development, enhanced code enforcement and a town-wide stormwater master plan.

The new policy goals will guide the Town Manager as he crafts next year’s spending plan. Budget negotiations will begin later this spring.

BoCC Eyes Older Schools For Bond Referendum

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.