Is Massive GCS Bond–and the Sales Hike Referendum to Pay for It—Dead? | Beaufort County Now | The proposed $1.6 billion Guilford County Schools bond–and the proposed sales tax hike referendum to pay for it—were on thin ice anyway in the wake of the coronavirus. | john locke foundation, GCS bond, sales hike, referendum, may 4, 2020

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Is Massive GCS Bond–and the Sales Hike Referendum to Pay for It—Dead?

Publisher's note: The author of this post is Sam Hieb for the John Locke Foundation.

    The proposed $1.6 billion Guilford County Schools bond-and the proposed sales tax hike referendum to pay for it-were on thin ice anyway in the wake of the coronavirus. But Rhino Times county editor Scott Yost reports they might be dead on arrival, dead on the water-however you want to put it:

  • Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning has stated the situation the most succinctly.
  • "We had to table the school bond and the sales tax [referendum] to pay for it, because we all realize that all of our models are thrown out the window," Henning said at the Thursday, April 16 commissioners meeting when the board put the school bond on ice. "We don't have models that show what we can do next."
  • Henning said that, right now, while the economy is virtually at a standstill, people can't even plan a vacation - much less plan for a $1.6-billion spending initiative. He said economic activity has to resume.
  • "If we don't get this thing going, there won't be school bonds this year - there won't be a lot of things this year," Henning said.

    Ever the optimist, fellow Commissioner Skip Alston countered:

  • Alston said this week that there is going to be a school bond referendum on the ballot, and he said that, furthermore, he's confident that the Board of Commissioners will vote unanimously to put it on the ballot. He said the virus hasn't changed the pressing needs of the school system given its aging and failing buildings.
  • "The school bond will be on the ballot in November," Alston said.
  • Alston is still pushing for a bond to be set at $1.6 billion. However, he did acknowledge that, given the current state of the economy and the political realities of a Republican-majority board, the bond on the ballot may end up being a lesser amount, perhaps half of the school board's request.
  • Alston said that, even if a $1.6 billion bond passes in November, the schools will need more money in another bond referendum in two years since the needs of the system are so great.

    This is an interesting issue, considering the timing of both school bonds and sales tax hike referendums are always controversial-should they go on primary ballots or off-year ballots in order to kinda sneak them in, or should they should they go on presidential year ballots in order to take advantage of maximum turnout? And who knows what the vote will be look like come November. For what it's worth, the News & Record offers up some ideas for making the vote safe, in the process promoting N.C. Board of Elections executive director Karen Brinson Bell recommendation for all mail-in ballots with prepaid postage.


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