Few town boards have weighed in on school bond vote

aramos@newsobserver.comSeptember 14, 2013 

The Fuquay-Varina Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of the proposed $810 million schools construction bond. The Morrisville Town Council may follow suit soon.

But most governing municipal boards in western Wake County haven’t weighed in to voice support or opposition to the Oct. 8 referendum.

Boards in Holly Springs, Apex and Cary have been mum. None has immediate plans to pass resolutions, according to officials.

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said it’s unlikely that some of the larger municipalities will vote on whether to support the bond.

“We usually don’t as a practice pass resolutions on controversial issues, especially when it comes to another governing body,” he said. “It’s like telling another governing body this is how you should do your job.”

But Weinbrecht said he personally supports the school bond.

“I think it’s essential for this region,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer. We are already so far behind. Our schools are overcrowded. Our teachers are underpaid. If we don’t, it will not only hurt our students, it’ll hurt economic development.”

Wake schools want to spend a total of $939.9 million to build 11 new elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, and also renovate several existing schools.

The school system expects to add about 20,000 students by 2018.

Fuquay-Varina commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Sept. 3 in support of the bond as a way to tell Wake County officials that they were in favor of good public schools, said Mayor John Byrne.

“I think it’s the right thing to do in Wake County, for the children of Wake County,” Byrne said. “You need more rooms, more facilities. If we look at the growth indicators … we’re growing dramatically. Even during the economic downturn we continue to grow. We’ll build close to 500 homes this year in Fuquay-Varina. And that’s pretty substantial.”

It was Fuquay-Varina Commissioner Cindy Sheldon’s idea to pass a resolution.

“We have a lot of expansion in our schools in Fuquay-Varina due to growth,” Sheldon said. “We don’t want to continue to see our schools crowded. It’s just time, and the citizens need to support it so the schools can do what they need to do.”

Morrisville Town Councilman Michael Schlink wants his town board to pass a resolution in hopes of bringing a middle school or high school within the town’s borders. The council could consider a resolution around the end of the month, he said.

When a school is built, Schlink hopes it will be a STEM school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math..

“We’re the only town in Wake County without a middle school or a high school,” Schlink said, adding that he is in the process of starting an online petition.

Since the 1976 merger of the Wake County and Raleigh city school systems, voters have approved seven of eight bond referendums for schools.

The one defeat came in 1999, when voters overwhelmingly rejected a $650 million bond issue. A scaled-back $500 million bond issue was approved by voters in 2000.

This year, the bond has supporters and critics.

Leaders of the Wake County Taxpayers Association say the school system can get by the next few years by using $129.9 million in cash the county has on hand for school construction and $43.8 million in previously issued school bonds.

The Apex Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has thrown its support behind the bonds.

“A great education system is the foundation of our community, thus as business leaders we support the school bond in order to maintain the excellence of our schools,” Dave Cozzarelli, chairman of the Apex chamber, said in a statement released last month.

Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed to this report.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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