Wake County voters could see a new bond on the ballot this fall as the Wake County school system continues to grow. The schools bond would be used for building new schools and improving existing buildings.
But first, County Commissioners and Board of Education members must find out exactly how much growth is projected. And that could be tricky.
In the first joint meeting between the groups this week, members listened to presentations by Assistant Superintendent for Facilities Joe Desormeaux and other school officials. This introductory session was meant to acquaint both government bodies with the issues, rather than present any policy statements.
County Commissioners have a July deadline to get the bond on the November ballot.
The last schools bond was passed in 2006 for $970 million. The original estimate predicted the money to run out in 2010. Due to slower-than-expected growth, compounded by the recession, the total of $1,056,000,000, which included $16 million from the state lottery and other savings, lasted through 2012.
Through the 2006 plan, 17 new schools were built, 15 were renovated and, according to Desormeaux, “Almost every school in the county was touched in some way by this bond.”
Going forward, the county is expected to continue to grow both in total population and in number of students in the public schools. However, that growth is slower now than previously anticipated.
The 2012 student population growth was 1.9 percent, one of the lowest percentages since before 1986. In an anomaly this year, kindergarten enrollment increased by just 16 students countywide.
Kreiser said the projection for next year is more regular, with an increase of about 205 kindergarten students, breaking down to nine or 10 additional kindergarten classrooms. Such growth is still far fewer than the increase of 660 from the 2005-06 school year.
County Manager David Cooke said the goal is to have a bond plan in place by June, which means officials don’t have much time to figure out the details.
“Back in ’05 and ’06, the two boards met for 18 months,” Cooke said. “It took 18 months of work in order to get to that point of a million dollar bond referendum.”
The goal this time is to work quickly and efficiently on a six-month timetable, so that business and other community leaders have time to prepare and educate the community in July and August, Cooke said.
Joint meetings will occur monthly until June. The next one is scheduled for Feb. 21.