WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) –- November fourth New Hanover County residents have the choice to pass a $160 million dollar school bond.
The money would fund 14 projects across the county including a new elementary school, renovations to existing schools, and technology updates.
School leaders say enrollment numbers are at an all-time high with more than 3,500 students overcapacity.
“If I’m a parent, I would hope we would address that before it gets to be an even bigger problem,” said Superintendent Dr. Tim Markely.
Leaders expect this to become an even bigger issue with an a projected 3,000 more students by 2020.
“It just means that we have classes and kids everywhere in the building,” said Markley.
Classes are held outside of the buildings too. The district has 84 trailers serving as classrooms because of the overcrowding.
“There are issues with those that go with air quality and with safety,” said Markley.
Safety paramount to the district and leaders feel the bond addresses that.
“The new schools that we will rebuild, and some of the redesigns will allow us to restructure the front entrances so they are more secure,” said Markley.
Voting in favor of the bond will increase your property tax to pay it off, plus interest, over 20 years.
For example, if you have a $200,000 home your tax bill will go up about $60 per year.
There’s also the question of just how much debt New Hanover County can handle.
Currently, the county owes more than $403 million in principal on existing debt, and then another $115 million in interest.But the county says it could legally issue debt worth nearly $2.4 billion, though internal policy limits bond spending to a fifth of the legal cap.
“Nobody wants to look at this and say, ‘I want a potential tax increase,’ but I think the long-term costs would be much, much greater than the short-term cost,” said Markley.
Markley says if the bond does not pass it will force the school system to redistrict on almost an annual basis.
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