In November, Wake County will ask its residents to approve a $200 million bond that would fund construction and renovation projects for Wake Technical Community College.
The bond will pay for the construction of a general education classroom building, an IT and business building, and a health sciences building at the Northern Wake campus, renovations at the Public Safety Education Center, construction of the first two classroom buildings at the RTP campus and other general renovations.
The total cost of all the projects is $210.2 million. The additional $10.2 million in cash will come from the county.
The passage of the bonds would not require a property tax increase.
Nicole Kreiser, Wake County’s debt and capital director, explained that municipalities can build capital projects using cash or by issuing debt that is either voter approved or not. General obligation bonds are voter-approved bonds.
“Voter approved debt has a lower interest rate,” she said, adding that it would enable the county to issue debt at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
The county also issued bonds in 2004 and 2007 for $40 million and $92 million, respectively.
Shall the order adopted on August 6, 2012, authorizing COMMUNITY COLLEGE BONDS of the County of Wake, North Carolina in an amount not to exceed $200,000,000, for the purpose of providing funds, together with any other available funds, to construct, renovate, expand, improve and equip community college facilities for Wake Technical Community College, including, without limitation, the acquisition of land, easements and rights-of-way in connection therewith, in Wake County, and the authorization of the levy of taxes in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and the interest on said bonds, be approved?
The Impact from Growth and Recession
Laurie Clowers, vice president of communications at Wake Tech, said the school’s enrollment is about 66,000 students, “which equates to about one in every eight adults in Wake County,” she said.
The makeup of the student body ranges from 17-year-old high school graduates entering as freshmen to 70-year-old adults enrolling in continuing education classes.
The college is no longer able to meet the demand generated from the growth of the county and the need from the recession.
The college began seeing a huge jump in enrollment in 2007 when economy started tanking. Clowers said that it’s typical to see enrollment increase during an economic downturn.
People who are unemployed end up signing up for classes or extra training at Wake Tech with hopes that it will increase their chances of being hired.
Clowers added that the county is growing at an average of 20,000 residents per year, exacerbating the problem.
Right now, there are about 5,400 students that couldn’t get at least one of their classes and were put on waiting lists. Even when students did get classes, there was an average of 2.5 classes in which they weren’t able to enroll.
Clowers said that ends up being about 13,000 seats.
“We’re doing our best,” said Clowers, “but we’re having a hard time keeping up. We’re at capacity and it’s difficult to meet the demand.”
The increased classrooms at the Northern Wake and RTP campuses will enable the college to serve about 24,000 more students per year.
• Northern Wake Campus: Construction of a general education classroom building to open in July 2016
• Northern Wake Campus: Construction of a health sciences building to open in January 2017
• Northern Wake Campus: Construction of a IT and business focused building to open in January 2017
• Public Safety Education Center: Construction of Phase 3 to focus on police, fire, and EMS training to open in July 2015
• RTP Campus: Construction of the first two classroom buildings focused on IT Analytics, biotechnology, and general education to open in July 2017
• Various renovations, roof repairs, elevator repairs, and parking lots on all campuses
The increase in classrooms will also give Wake Tech the ability to expand the amount of classes and programs for high-demand fields in health sciences, information technology and financial services. Clowers said the college also wants to have more resources for entrepreneurs and have the ability to serve more of them.
It’s About Jobs
When asked why residents should approve the bond, Clowers said, “this bond is about jobs.”
“Wake Tech is a pathway to economic recovery for this area,” she said.
Clowers went on to say that the bond will allow the college to expand and train more students for high-demand fields and attract businesses that are looking to fill those types of positions.
In the short term, she said, it will create it about 2,000 local construction jobs and 3,000 jobs in related fields, such as design and manufacturing.
“We’re optimistic that voters will support this,” she said.