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Wake Co. voters to decide on $810 million school construction bond

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When Wake County voters hit the polls Tuesday, they'll be asked to decide on a $810 million school bond. When Wake County voters hit the polls Tuesday, they'll be asked to decide on a $810 million school bond.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

When Wake County voters hit the polls today, they'll be asked to decide on a $810 million school bond.

The Wake County Public School System has about 150,000 students, and projections indicate that by 2018 there will be 20,000 more students in the system.

To facilitate the growth, the school system is calling for an additional 16 new schools, and superintendent Jim Merrill hopes to cover the cost of those schools with the bond. Six schools are also in need of added space because they have already reached capacity, school leaders said.

The bond for the fast-growing Wake schools has faced some opposition. Merrill has made it a priority, but the Wake County Republican Party opposes the bonds.

Former school board chairman Ron Margiotta acknowledged the county is in need on schools and its existing schools need renovations, but he said the bond proposal is not the way to go.

"They need to go back to the table and come back with something that's far more reasonable," Margiotta said.

The Wake County School Board said a lack of attention to growth resulted in mandatory year-round schools. Bond supporters said unless the school system adds new schools, the situation will on get worse -- especially in western Wake County.

"We could be building at maximum capacity and we would still be behind our need," said board member Jim Martin.

But the Wake County Taxpayers Association is urging people to vote against the bond because it says the county doesn't need it.

"The Wake County Public School System is calling for an additional 16 new schools. We don't think they really need it because we believe they've got enough capacity to meet the needs for four to five years," said Anthony Pecoraro with the Wake County Taxpayers Association.

Merrill, who was sworn in as superintendent in August, said his priorities are increasing student achievement and seeing that voters approve the $810 million school construction bond.

The school system said it expects at least 40 years of use out of any new building it constructs.

Advocates of the bond say the hike in property taxes would add about $12 a month to the average homeowner's tax bill. They also say the increase is conservative enough not to be a burden.

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Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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