Guilford County’s plan to take on an additional $1.7 billion in debt hit a bump in the road at the North Carolina Local Government Commission (LGC) meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22.
Rather than approving the $1.7 billion in school bonds passed by the voters of Guilford County in the May 26 primary election, the LGC tabled the item and asked for more information.
The LGC, chaired by NC State Treasurer Dale Folwell, must approve the issuance of debt by local governments. It is the responsibility of the LGC to determine if “the amount being borrowed is adequate and reasonable for the projects and is an amount the unit can reasonably afford to repay,” according to the LGC website.
The press release from the North Carolina Department of the State Treasurer states, “However, LGC members had questions about the county taking on more debt, how it would be paid back and whether falling school enrollment trends justify the need. A $300 million bond package was approved in 2020. While voters approved the $1.7 billion in bonds in May, they rejected a referendum to raise sales taxes to pay for it. The county plans to use property taxes instead. School officials said schools in some areas are overcrowded and are badly deteriorating. In tabling the matter, the commission directed county officials to respond in 10 days with enrollment numbers.”
The press release notes that the $1.7 billion is planned to be used “to build three new schools, demolish and rebuild 19 schools, fully renovate 12 schools and invest about $363 million in safety and technology upgrades. No tax increase is expected. The school system now has 126 schools and more than 300 buildings.”
Guilford County Schools enrollment dropped from 73,407 in 2015 to 69,580 in 2021. Enrollment figures are based on the 20th day enrollment.
Greensboro City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann is a member of the LGC but did not attend the Sept. 22 meeting.