Few people seem to be noticing but property taxes for Wake County homeowners may be going up yet again. Last night Wake County Commissioners agreed to put three bond referenda on the ballot on November 6th to pay for education and recreation needs.
If all three bonds are approved, the county’s property tax rate would increase 3.8 cents, or about $114 for someone with a $300,000 home in Wake County.
The bonds are divided as follows:
- $548 million for Wake County Public School construction and renovation
- $349.1 million for Wake County Technical Community College construction
- $120 million for open space and parks.
The bond referenda come on the heels of Wake County Commissioners approving a fourth consecutive property tax increase to fund the newly-passed $1.3 billion Wake County budget.
Wake is one of the state’s fastest growing counties. All the more reason to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Four consecutive tax increases mean spending in the schools and county keeps going up. The WCPSS budget has increased $1.3 to $1.6 billion, since 2013.
The November bond will ask for another $548 million for Wake County Public Schools. Of that amount, $140 million is designated for new schools and $283 million for renovations.
Of particular interest is that last year Wake County Schools saw its smallest enrollment growth in 34 years, adding only 880 students, while the local public charter, private and home school populations saw strong increases. Other districts have also had to address the concerns and implications of slowing enrollment.
WCPSS planners had expected the system to gain 2,200 students and 1,900 next year. The final numbers are well below the growth rate that had been estimated. Most school system planners view the current slowdown as only a blip on a path of continued strong growth. There are others who disagree.
Those are important estimates because schools are planned, staffed and constructed built on those numbers. Civitas has written extensively about WCPSS’s penchant for overestimating student enrollment (see here and here).
Of the over half-billion dollars slated for Wake County Schools capital needs, $89 million of technology is designated for technology and “$36 million for contingency and management.”
Does anyone know what that means? Contingency and management? Sounds like a fancy name for a savings account.
Half a billion dollars is a lot of money for school construction and renovation for a county whose population trends are changing and whose residents are choosing different educational options.
The last school bond was in 2013 when voters approved an $810 million bond. 57.7 percent of voters approved. That margin was not as high as some experts had predicted.
Earlier this year there was discussion of a $1.1 billion school referendum. Clearly that figure was reduced, due in large part to some of the factors we discussed.
Because of slower growth rates, smaller households and fewer families choosing public schools, a reevaluation of WCPSS capital building plan is in order. Do voters feel the same way? We’ll find out in November.