The largest share comprises 49 percent of the total bond, or $980 million, and would be allocated to the UNC system. The second largest share at 17 percent, or $350 million, would go to community colleges. Other projects include improvements to state and local parks, national guard facilities and sewer and water infrastructure.
Chris Sinclair, the Republican consultant for the Connect NC Bond Committee, said the last bond of this type was put up for a vote and approved in 2000, and projects for the new bond were chosen by the legislature based on state priorities and needs.
“Since that time, North Carolina has added two million people to our state population, so it’s a function of what can we afford and what do we need,” he said.
Brad Crone, the Democratic consultant for the committee, said the state has been borrowing money through bonds since 1841. He said state revenue and increased debt service capacity means changes in taxes would not be necessary to pay back the bond.
“The life of the buildings that are going to be built, for example the medical science building at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will have a life span of 50 years,” he said. “We will pay the bond back over a 20-year period of time.”
State Treasurer Janet Cowell said in a statement that North Carolina’s “AAA” bond rating makes the bond a sound investment.
For UNC-CH, the bond plan allocates $68 million for a building to replace Berryhill Hall, a medical school building opened in 1970. Total costs for the project are estimated to be $90.6 million, with $22.6 million to be raised from other sources.
“The Connect NC Bond would invest in critical facilities at UNC’s School of Medicine that will increase Carolina’s ability to save lives and make a meaningful impact in all 100 counties of our state,” Chancellor Carol Folt said in an online statement.
Mark Lanier, assistant to the chancellor of UNC-Wilmington, said the $66 million allocated for their school would go toward an allied health building and help sustain the rapid growth the institution has seen in its health related programs.
“Quite a few of the projects are health-related and would help North Carolina meet the needs for the healthcare workforce of the 21st century,” he said.
Crone said another economic advantage of the bond is a projected immediate surge in construction jobs for many of the projects.
“Most all of the universities have projects that are shovel-ready,” he said.
Elwood Robinson, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, said the new $50 million science building the bond would construct has been part of his university’s master planning for more than a decade.
“One of the issues has been a lack of state funding to be able to do capital projects,” he said. “That has been something that has been, in my opinion, neglected by the state for a very long time, which makes the bond that much more important.”
Brock Winslow, vice chancellor for institutional advancement of the N.C. School of Science and Math, said the school’s project — a $58 million second campus in Burke County — will definitely require further planning.
“(The project) was included (in the bond) as an opportunity based on a number of concepts that have been drafted, but there has not been a specific program plan or some blueprint that is in place,” he said.
Winslow said the NCSSM chancellor and certain school officers, himself included, have been active in campaigning for the bond, but UNC-system regulations limit what faculty and other staff can do.
“The executives at your institutions are closely involved, and then others may be involved as their personal interest,” he said. “But it’s certainly not part of their official duties.”