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The Daily Tar Heel

Voters Pass $3.1 Billion Capital Improvements Bond

Unofficial results indicate that N.C. voters overwhelmingly passed the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum Tuesday - news that was greeted with thunderous applause from a gathering of more than 100 higher education advocates at The Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh on Tuesday night.

With 53 percent of the precincts reporting, 74 percent of voters approved the bond proposal, and 26 percent voted against it.

The bond - the largest in state history - will fund capital improvements on the state's university and community college campuses.

Those who worked on the bond campaign, which began this summer shortly after the N.C. General Assembly voted unanimously to send the proposal to the people, were all smiles Tuesday night as election results began to flash across two big-screen television sets in the Brownstone's grand ballroom.

"Sometimes goals that are really big and really important take a lot of time, a lot of persistence and a deep commitment," said UNC-system President Molly Broad, shortly after 10 p.m. when campaigners deemed the referendum a success. "And I think what we have seen in this vote is that North Carolinians are willing to take on those complex decisions when they think it is important for the state."

Broad, Board of Governors Chairman Ben Ruffin, N.C. Community College System President Martin Lancaster, Community Colleges School Board Chairman Herman Porter and Campaign Coordinator Leslie Bavacqua all gave brief speeches thanking each other and campaign volunteers for their efforts to get the bond passed.

Lancaster said the campaign also forged a new relationship between the university and community college systems - a relationship he said would continue in the future.

"We have found so many ways to cooperate," he said. "And these are ways we are going to build upon."

The 16-campus UNC system will receive $2.5 billion of the bond money. The rest will fund capital improvements at the state's community colleges.

Gov. Jim Hunt made an appearance at the gathering early in the evening before moving on to Democratic Headquarters at the North Raleigh Hilton. But even before a substantial portion of the votes had been counted, Hunt was confident that voters would endorse the bond proposal.

Shortly after the first returns suggested that 69 percent of voters in 1 percent of the state's precincts voted for the bond, Hunt said, "This shows that the people of the state love and support the universities and community colleges."

The bond proposal is intended to allow campuses to meet needs created by enrollment growth. The system projects that enrollment will increase by a third before 2008.

Ruffin emphasized that the bond money would allow the state's higher education institutions to remain accessible to students as enrollment grows.

He said, "Unborn generations of students and ordinary people will read about this night - November 7 - and they will read about the people of North Carolina coming together to provide an opportunity for them."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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