The last time the Guilford County Board of Commissioners put a school bond referendum on the ballot – in 2020 – the referendum consisted of $300 million.

 Now, nearly two years later, the board just put a whopping $1.7 billion school bond on the March 8, 2022 ballot with a partly line vote.  The board made the move at its Thursday, Dec. 2 meeting, and now it’s up to the voters.

The seven Democratic commissioners voted yes, while the two Republicans voted no.

The county has also already started the process of selling the massive bond referendum to the county’s voters. About five minutes after the board approved the bond referendum, the county’s public relations arm put out a press release touting the needs of the schools and the virtues of approving the $1.7 billion bond.  Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston and Commissioner Carly Cooke had already been generating publicity for the effort a day earlier by touring Walter Hines Page High School with local media and highlighting the school’s dilapidated conditions.

In October, the Guilford County Board of Education approved a similar resolution calling for the money.

In North Carolina, counties are responsible for funding school capital needs, and county officials have been arguing hard that issuing school bonds will be the cheapest way to raise the money to fund the needs.  They argue that, by paying with bond money, county taxpayers will save as much as $30 million over other forms of financing.

Opponents of the school bonds argue that the schools haven’t spent money well in the past and say that it’s irresponsible to hand over $1.7 billion to the school system.

While Commissioners Justin Conrad and Alan Perdue both voted against the $1.7 billion move, both said they support county schools but argued that the school bond referendum for next year should be a more palatable amount.  In the past, the two commissioners have argued that school capital funding should be done in stages as the money is needed rather than in one giant lump sum. The $1.7 billion in bonds won’t be sold all at once, but will be sold to fund projects over time.