State Rep. Jon Hardister agreed that in the proposed state education bond referendum it appeared that Guilford County as the third largest school system in the state “was not getting as much as it should.”
Guilford County Schools are slated to get $12.6 million of the $1.9 billion proposed state education bond while Wake County Schools, the largest in the state, is supposed to receive $109.6 million.
Hardister who is House majority whip said that he co-sponsored the bill because he agreed with the concept of providing state money through a bond referendum for school maintenance and construction, not necessarily with the funding formula.
He said, “I will do the best I can to make sure Guilford County is treated fairly.”
Hardister explained that the bill that was filed was just a “starting point” and would have to go through several House committees, and then a vote on the House floor and he expected it to be amended all along the way.
Of course, for an education construction bond referendum to appear on the ballot in 2020, it not only has to pass the state House, it also has to pass the state Senate which provides more opportunity for changes.
In fact the Senate is currently looking at an entirely different method of funding school construction not with a bond but on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Hardister said, “I’m not a big fan of taking on debt. I’m not opposed to the pay-as-you-go concept. I think that’s something that we should consider going forward.”
Hardister’s main point was that the proposed bond package, put the issue of the state offering some help to the local school districts with construction costs on the table and what was finally passed by the legislature would likely be very different from House Bill 241 that he co-sponsored. He said the important thing at this point was to get the discussion going on the best way for the state to fund school construction.
Hardister said one of the big problems with the pay-as-you-go method is that any future legislature could decide to spend that money elsewhere, but if a bond referendum passed that money could only be used for the stated purpose of the bond in this case school construction.
The problem for Guilford County in the proposed bond funding is the formula that was used to determine how much each school system would receive. Hardister said that he wasn’t sure he understood exactly how the formula worked but it appeared one reason Guilford County received so little funding was that the school system, despite being the third largest, was not growing and one of the funding variables was based on growth.
Another factor was based on the economic vitality of the county. The formula awarded more money to counties that were deemed to be in economic distress. Although Guilford is a Tier 2 county, unlike Wake and Mecklenburg which are both in the most economically successful Tier 3, according to the bill Guilford was not deemed in such dire economic straits that it deserved more money.
So Guilford lost out on the growth money because the school system in the county is not growing and lost out on the economic distress money because the economy while not deemed good by the state, is not deemed bad enough for more money.
Governor Roy Cooper has stated that he is in favor of the bond proposal presented in the House.