The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide the amount of an expected November 2020 school bond referendum at the board’s Thursday, April 16 meeting.

In discussions on the right amount in recent months, the suggested numbers have been all over the place.

Commissioner Skip Alston has been asking for $1.6 billion – the amount the Guilford County Board of Education has requested – while other commissioners have come in at around $700 million or $800 million. Commissioner Alan Branson has suggested $500 million or less might be the proper amount, and, recently, some commissioners have even hinted that 2020 might not be the best year for a school bond referendum at all given the current world pandemic.

This topic would normally fill up the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ second-floor meeting room in the Od Guilford County Court House – however, these aren’t normal times. On Monday, April 13, Guilford County sent out notice of a “Virtual Regular Meeting,” which included, in all caps: THE MEETING ROOM WILL NOT BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC” – and, in case the point was lost on anyone, the words “WILL NOT” were underlined. The notice does say that the county is allowing “Speakers from the floor” (now called by staff “Speakers from the phone.”)

Those wishing to speak need to contact the county’s Clerk to the Board’s office by 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15. Slots are limited to 16 speakers and will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The commissioners must make decisions on the November school bond referendum early in the year since there’s a somewhat lengthy process for referendums that requires approval by the North Carolina Local Government Commission before a bond can be placed on the ballot.

Later in the process, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners can lower the approved amount but they cannot increase it.

The bond referendum would need to be approved by a majority of the county’s voters in November before bonds could be issued and the money raised.