Former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson has been fighting the $1.7 billion school bond referendum that voters approved in the May 2022 primary election – and that has greatly displeased many school bond supporters who are now blaming Branson for holding up school repairs and construction by his official complaints to the local and state board of elections and by, possibly, continuing the battle in court.
However, Branson – who said this week that the matter is in fact likely to end up in court – also said that his current actions aren’t holding up any plans that Guilford County Schools has for the money. The reason is this: It usually takes a long time between the time a bond is approved by voters and the time that that money is spent by the school system. Branson said that if the courts ultimately find that the passage of the $1.7 billion school bond was handled properly and should be certified, then the Guilford County school system would have lost exactly zero days when it comes to putting any of that money to use.
The election was in May and, had it not been for Branson’s protest, the Guilford County Board of Elections would have already certified the passage of the huge bond referendum and sent that along to the state board for certification. However, even if Branson hadn’t argued that Guilford County and the school system illegally used taxpayer money to promote the passage of the bond referendum, it would still be a long time before the school system spent a dollar of that $1.7 billion.
After a school bond is approved, there’s a long process for the logistics of issuing the bonds and then the package must be reviewed by the county’s bond counsel and approved by the state’s Local Government Commission. Then the Board of Commissioners must approve the actual issuance of the bonds. Then the county hands the money to the school system only as it is needed for projects.
Also, Guilford County voters approved $300 million in school bond money in 2020, and there’s still well over $100 million in school bond money from that $300 million approved in 2020 that Guilford County hasn’t even issued yet.
“I’m not holding any school projects up,” Branson said this week.
He said if the courts find that the election was legitimate and the $1.7 billion bond referendum should be certified, then the schools will have all the money as soon as they would have received it anyway – despite his legal action.
When school bond referendums were passed by voters in 2008, school officials pleaded with county commissioners to give them the money fast in the beginning, but Guilford County Schools was still in the process of spending that money in 2018 and school officials were up against a deadline to spend it before losing the legal right to do so.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who has been highly critical of Branson’s actions, acknowledged that there’s a lot of money left from the 2020 $300 million school bond and also that it takes a long time to issue bonds once approved, but the chairman still said Branson’s protest is holding up things.
“The schools can’t fully start the planning process until this is settled,” Alston said.