Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said this week that Guilford County’s school system needs every penny of the proposed $1.7 billion school bond referendum that he and many others want to see on the ballot in March of 2022. 

He said the schools need that money on top of the $300 million that county voters approved for Guilford County Schools in November of 2020.

“We spent $900,000 on a study to find out what the schools’ needs are – so of course we are going to listen to that study,” Alston said, adding that the school system’s assessed needs are massive after decades of underfunding.

Alston said that, at some point before the current fiscal year (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) is over, Guilford County plans to sell bonds to raise $180 million of the $300 million that voters approved in 2020.  In fiscal year 2022-2023, the chairman said, Guilford County will sell $120 million – the remainder of that $300 million – and give the schools that money as the bills for projects come in.

Alston said that, hopefully, by the time that $300 million is raised, the schools will have another $1.7 billion in the pipeline.  He said he fully expects voters to approve the $1.7 billion school bond referendum next year.

When the Board of Commissioners recently approved moving forward with putting “up to $1.7 billion” on the ballot next year for the schools, several commissioners indicated that the actual number would likely be less than that.  Now, however, it looks very much like the entire $1.7 billion will be on the ballot.

Alston said he’s confident county voters can be persuaded to approve the coming bond referendum, and he added that the county will be able to pay off the debt using an estimated additional $56 million annually that a 2022 county-wide property revaluation will bring for upcoming county budgets. 

Alston said he is also hopeful county voters will approve a sales tax increase that will be on the ballot along with the school bond referendum.  He said that new revenue stream would help tremendously as well. 

The chairman added that, in the first few years after the $1.7 billion bond passes, the financial burden on the county won’t be that great because it will take a while to get many projects underway.  He noted that the annual debt payment on the $1.7 billion would peak at $45 million years down the line.