Guilford County Schools Board of Education requests $1.7 billion bond referendum to improve ‘crumbling’ infrastructure

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – The Guilford County Schools Board of Education has requested a $1.7 billion school construction bond referendum be placed on the March 8, 2021 primary election ballot. 

On Tuesday, the board passed a bond referendum request resolution in a seven-to-two vote. It makes the formal request to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and must be approved before being placed on next year’s ballot.  

According to the district’s facilities master plan, it would fund 19 rebuilds, 12 renovations, three new construction projects and provide numerous safety upgrades, technology and deferred maintenance repairs at all other schools.

School officials expressed there is currently not enough money to address a growing list of infrastructure needs, some that are decades old. 

“We haven’t been maintaining or improving our buildings for decades,” said Anne Beatty, a teacher at the Early College at Guilford and GCS parent. “It seems like a lot of money and it is a lot of money but it’s an investment.” 

Ahead of the board meeting dozens of people with differing opinions on the bond referendum request showed up outside the school district’s central office in Downtown Greensboro. 

Beatty brought her three children who are all enrolled in the district. She sees the need for improvements first-hand as a school teacher. 

“Our physical infrastructure is crumbling,” Beatty said. “I have mold and mildew on the ceiling in my classroom. I’m worried about the drinking water in my children’s elementary school which is almost 100-years-old.” 

Lee Haywood stood against the bond referendum request. “There’s plenty of money there,” he said. “There’s a lot of money there to fix these problems but it just needs to be used wisely.” 

In 2020 Guilford County voters passed a $300 million dollar bond referendum for school construction and repairs. 

School officials said it funded eight projects and land for all future projects. However, it only accounted for a fraction of the current needs.  

“They have a $2 billion dollar problem,” said Skip Alston, the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. “We only gave them $300 million dollars last year.”  

The district’s bond referendum request must be approved by the commissioners before heading to voters.

“$1.7 billion dollars would not be issued immediately,” Alston said. “This is a seven-to-ten year project and we would issue the bonds based on the projects they can do in that one particular budget year.” 

Alston told FOX8 he is in favor of the bond referendum. He said county and district staff are working together to determine a way to pay down the debt if voters approve it. 

“We’re hoping we’ll have the quarter-cent sales tax that would be able to help pay for it,” Alston said. “We’re not looking at having a tax increase, a tax rate increase in order to pay for this, we’re looking at other creative ways in order to make sure we look out for the taxpayers and also look out for our children.” 

The district’s request will be considered during the November 4 commissioner’s meeting, according to Alston.

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