The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Proposed Bond Would Fund New Schools

Officials have earmarked $47 million of the $78 million bond package to build two elementary schools and one middle school.

The package presently totals $78 million and is a combination of five proposed bond orders. But N.C. General Statues and the Local Government Commission restrict the Orange County Board of Commissioners from putting more than $75 million on the ballot, said Greg Wilder, assistant to the county manager.

Of the five orders, one concerns the local school systems. A significant part of the bond is a proposed $47 million that would allow three schools to be added to the county -- two elementary schools for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district and one middle school for the Orange County Schools district.

Also on the bond referendum is a measure that would help finance the county's parks and recreation, senior centers, affordable housing and land acquisition.

Steve Scroggs, assistant superintendent for support services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, said he hopes the commissioners will chose to cut money in areas other than education.

"That $3 million does not need to come from the schools," Scroggs said. "If they take $3 million from that, we don't have the amount of money to spend what we need. We can't cut corners on kids' education."

Wilder said the expected cost for each of the elementary schools is $13 million to $14 million, and the expected cost for the middle school is about $18 million.

One elementary school will most likely be built in Meadowmont, while details on the other have yet to be worked out.

But Scroggs said the bond would help the system prepare for future overcrowding, sparing the system from addressing the problem too late.

"Right now today we have capacity in elementary schools of 4,302," Scroggs said. "That's how many kids we have room for, but we actually have 4,440 children, and that number will grow in the next couple of weeks."

"We're already over capacity," Scroggs added. "So if we build one (elementary) school, that will give us 600 more seats, but by the time we open that school, that capacity will already be absorbed."

This year, officials employed several tools to determine the projected student growth. "For what the district uses, we're right on the money," Scroggs said. "If we were within a hundred students, I was going to be ecstatic, but we're even closer than that."

"This is the closest we have ever been on projection in years," he added.

Scroggs said the final local count totaled 10,026 students systemwide, putting the local projection remarkably close to the predicted level.

"One of the big concerns was were we able to project accurately," he said. "We were off by 17 out of 10,000. And we're still growing."

The commissioners will hold a public hearing about the proposed bond package at 7 p.m. on Monday.

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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