Comedians know that timing is everything and others who are well aware of that fact are the advocates for a coming new bond referendum to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in capital projects for Guilford County Schools.
The bond referendum hasn’t been officially proposed yet and no amount has been agreed on; however, in recent meetings between the Guilford County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, the timing of that proposed bond referendum has been a topic of debate several times.
In January, the county commissioners and the school board members heard the results of a school facilities study that found that the schools had $1.5 billion in needs for capital projects and related educational programs – and the most obvious way to raise some or all of that money is to put a bond referendum on the ballot.
School officials would, of course, like to have the money as soon as possible; however, on the other hand, they also want time to sell the idea to the voting public.
Another question is whether the referendum should be placed on a ballot of a light turnout primary or one that promises a large turnout like the November 2020 presidential election.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners will have the final say if and when the measure is placed on the ballot.
Commissioner Hank Henning said one thing that’s important to him is that there be enough time for voters to be “fully informed” before the item is voted on.
He also said that, before a major bond referendum goes on the ballot, he wants to see a very well formed plan as to how the money will be paid back.
Henning said he feels that, currently, school officials and commissioners are working well together on the question.
“Is there a rush to get something on the ballot without a complete plan behind it – no,” Henning said.
Henning added that there are a lot of questions left regarding the timeline, but he suggested that voters could see something on the ballot between one year and two years out.
“It might fall within 12 to 24 months,” Henning speculated.
When the consultants presented the facilities study results to the Board of Commissioners and the school board, one expert made an interesting comment: He said the school bond would likely have its best chance of passing if it were put on the ballot when turnout was very light. That caused some double takes since many officials in the room considered it best to have a large number of voters weigh in on such an important matter.
“That didn’t really sit well with me,” Henning said of the consultant’s suggestion. “You are never going to hear me say that having less voters is better.”
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson said he’s been considering the possibility of using a sales tax referendum to fund school needs. In that case, the school advocates would still have to convince the voters to approve the sales tax increase – just as those voters would have to approve a bond referendum.