University administrators and some N.C. legislators - still basking in the overwhelming passage of the $3.1 billion higher education bond Tuesday - now face the challenge of managing the massive construction and renovation project.
More than 73 percent of the state's voters approved the bond, possibly due to an intense information and get-out-the-vote campaign from bond supporters ranging from students to alumni.
The bond will fund capital improvements at UNC-system schools and N.C. community colleges.
But some bond opponents say the bond package also will raise taxes and increase administrators' reliance on the state for funding.
Board of Governors member John Sanders said he was pleased by the outcome. "I fully expected victory, but not one of this magnitude," Sanders said.
He added that campus and state officials are already preparing for construction and soliciting bids from contractors.
Sanders said there are several safeguards for the bond money, such as legislation explicitly allocating the money, which were approved before the General Assembly sent the bond to the voters.
Sanders said the Higher Education Bond Oversight Committee, a temporary agency lasting until the bond money is depleted, is ready to take action now that voters have approved the bond.
The oversight committee is composed of 10 members appointed to serve three-year terms by the state legislature, the Board of Governors and the Board of Community Colleges.
Sanders said the committee would be responsible for soliciting progress reports from institutions receiving bond money and ensuring that the schools stay within their budgets. UNC-Chapel Hill will receive about $500 million.
Still jubilant from Tuesday's victory, state legislators and student leaders were in a celebratory mood, pondering what the bond's success would lead to.
"I am just elated over the margin by which the bonds passed," said Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange. "I'm convinced it's an indication of the support for higher education in North Carolina."
Lee said he saw the overwhelming approval as a mandate for further improvements in the UNC system like increasing faculty pay and financial aid.
UNC Association of Student Governments President Andrew Payne echoed the excitement. "I think the citizens of North Carolina have reaffirmed what we have been talking about for years now." Payne said.
He said he looks forward to the improvement of campus buildings.
But George Leef, director of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the bond's passage might lead to tax increases. "In my overall assessment, I think in the fullness of time North Carolinians will come to regret this decision," Leef said. "Tuition increases would have alleviated the need for so much borrowing. It's not going to happen now."
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