RALEIGH — Former Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta told members of the Wake County Taxpayers Association on Thursday that this fall’s $810 million school construction bond issue is not needed.
Margiotta said enrollment growth has slowed due to the recession, and increased competition for students is expected from private and charter schools. He said that rejecting the bond would force the school board to come up with a more “reasonable” plan than raising money through a bond issue to add unneeded classroom seats. There are many empty classroom seats already, he said.
“Do we need new schools and new seats?” said Margiotta, who served on the school board from 2003 to 2011. “Yes. But do we need this particular bond? I’d say no. It’s far in excess of what we need.”
On Oct. 8, voters will decide on a bond referendum that would fund most of a $939.9 million school construction program. It would finance construction of 16 schools, major renovations at six schools and a list of other projects.
Bond supporters say the new schools are needed to keep up with growth that’s bringing 3,000 new students a year to the state’s largest school district. The Wake County Democratic Party is one group that came out in support of the bond.
But the Wake County Republican Party and the Wake County Taxpayers Association oppose the bond issue.
Ed Jones, chairman of the Taxpayers Association, told members Thursday that plans are in progress to mount a well-organized opposition campaign to the school bond. He said, however, that he didn’t want to publicly discuss the plans at this time.
County Commissioner Tony Gurley said he’s urging people to support the bond issue. But he said he doesn’t trust the school board’s Democratic majority to spend the money wisely.
If voters approve the bond, he and other Republican commissioners, would aggressively seek legislation again next year turning authority for school construction over to the commissioners, he said. Even if the bill fails next year, like it failed this year, Gurley said the commissioners would be taking a more active role in overseeing how the bond money is spent.
“I can promise you, we will not authorize any construction until the capacity is needed,” he said.
Gurley also announced Thursday that he will not run for re-election next year. He urged the Taxpayers Association members to help him find a fellow conservative to run in his district to help keep Republicans in the majority.