Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston said this week that he has begun an effort to get local businesses and the cities of Greensboro and High Point to collectively take on 10 percent of the school bond debt issued by the county in an expected upcoming bond referendum.

Alston said one of the groups that would benefit the most from improved schools is area businesses, and he said, for that reason, he’s attempting to work with the local business community to get them to raise the funds to pay off 10 percent of a coming school bond. He said that effort also includes getting contributions from the county’s two biggest cities.

Normally, the entire cost of paying back a bond referendum would fall on Guilford County government. However, Alston said he’s optimistic the business community in Guilford County will buy in to the plan and he hopes city leaders will also see the wisdom of doing so due to the economic development benefits.

“I think we should ask the business community and the cities to do 10 percent,” Alston said this week. “Increasing spending on schools attracts more business. The first thing business leaders ask about when they are considering coming here is ‘How is your school system?’”

He added that a well-equipped and well-funded school system creates a stronger, better educated workforce that’s a big benefit to local businesses and cities.

“They ought to be partners in paying,” he said.

Alston said he’s been discussing the idea with some area business leaders and said he believes there will be solid support for the effort given how much support local businesses have shown the school system in the past.

He also said the schools currently have roughly $2 billion in needs and said the county should raise the money over three bond referendums in upcoming years: A $1 billion referendum in 2020 followed by a $500 million referendum in three years and another $500 million referendum after that.

Other commissioners have suggested that there may be a school bond on the next ballot that falls in the range of $700 million to $750 million.