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Two bond referendums to appear on Orange County ballots

The first bond will be $120 million toward the improvement of capacity and security for Orange County Schools. Specifically, Chapel Hill High, Lincoln Center, Phoenix Academy High, Cedar Ridge High and Orange High will see major renovation and maintenance improvement among others.

Funds will go to sustainable student transportation, capacity expansion and renovation. Critical maintenance issues will also be addressed.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that we built 12 schools in 20 years,” Penny Rich, Orange County Board of Commissioners member, said. “We weren’t left with funds for repairs and upkeep.”

Rich said older schools are in need of repair, and this bond will address those problems.

Rabina Sawhney, a first-year at UNC, attended East Chapel Hill High. She said the funds are badly needed.

“A lot of the facilities are old and there’s a lot of over-crowding going on,” she said. “We need more classrooms and space, even just for lunch in the cafeteria. Some of the classrooms didn’t have enough desks or tables for every person so you would need to bring in chairs from other classrooms and things like that.”

John Holman has been a resident of Chapel Hill for many years. He said taking care of teachers’ wages should be priority and that the bonds aren’t addressing the right problems.

“Teachers need a raise, ‘cause they’re the most important people on earth,” Holman said. “They make less than anybody.”

Holman plans to vote to pass the referendum, but he has his reservations.

With the passing of the school bond referendum, Rich and fellow County Commissioner Renee Price want voters to know that property taxes may be raised.

“It’s quite probable, but there’s no guarantee – the taxes could go up as much as four cents per 100 dollars,” Price said.

According to the Orange County bonds website, the maximum tax rate increase could be between 3.7 and 5.8 cents.

Sawhney feels like that might be a problem in Orange County.

“In Chapel Hill the property taxes are already really high so that might be a struggle to pass,” she said.

The second bond referendum is $5 million toward the construction of 1,000 affordable housing units for senior citizens, disabled residents, and victims of domestic violence. Part of the bond will also go toward assisting middle-income families.

“It would be for teachers and our sheriff deputies and policemen,” Rich said. “People that are kind of caught in the middle.”

The board plans to put the bonds through a regular budget process every year and combine it with funds that assist lower income residents.

Rich believes that housing costs in Orange County are already a problem.

“Without affordable housing, you lose diversity in the county – middle class, lower class and creative people,” she said. “When people have to commute to work here, it’s not good for the environment.”

A common criticism among voters on the streets was a lack of knowledge of the bond referendum.

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Garrett Merville, a sophomore at UNC, said he hasn’t heard anything about the referendum.

“I think it would be better if they advertised it a little bit more,” he said.

Sawhney feels like the lack of publicity might affect how voters will sway.

“I had no idea (about the referendums),” she said. “My parents usually talk to me about that kind of stuff, so I’m not sure if they even know.”

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story was unclear about the possible tax increase. According to the Orange County bonds website, the maximum tax rate increase could be between 3.7 and 5.8 cents. The story has been updated to reflect this.

@roseloughran

city@dailytarheel.com

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