County officials say theyre willing to put $300 million in bonds on the November ballot, but that spending must be split between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College.
That poses a dilemma. CPCC and CMS both have growing enrollment and need to keep up with educational technology. Both are vital to the regions economic health.
And both say they could use every penny of the $300 million and then some.
Last week CPCC leaders presented a $430 million building plan to county leaders. On Tuesday, the CMS board will vote on 10-year, $2 billion list of projects and try to decide how many to carve off for a 2013 request.
The message that people need to understand is that the need is greater than the money thats available, said county Finance Director Dena Diorio.
County commissioners will decide in June how to divide the $300 million between the school district and the community college. On Tuesday, Diorio will explain the countys ranking system to the school board before members vote on a 2013 bond request.
Some school board members have voiced frustration that the county can reorder CMS priorities, using a scale that is also used to rate the urgency of park, library and jail construction. They say it doesnt always reflect educational priorities.
We dont want to put something out where we get the communitys hopes up and we get these schools hopes up only to have the county revise the list, CMS Chairman Mary McCray said Monday.
The bond vote would be the first in six years, but it wont signal a return to pre-recession spending, when the county was putting bonds on the ballot every two years and borrowing more than $200 million a year for CMS alone. When the economy flagged, county officials scaled back dramatically to control debt payments.
Now, county staff is proposing a $100 million annual bond limit, with three years of CMS and CPCC projects on the November ballot.
That means tough choices about which schools get improvements in the near future. When CMS unveiled its 10-year plan last month, with rankings of 142 projects, officials talked about getting the top 25 onto a 2013 bond, at a cost of about $400 million. Late last week, Superintendent Heath Morrison talked about focusing on the top 17 or 18, which would top $300 million.
When CMS held a public hearing on the construction list this month, only a handful turned out to speak. Those who did, including supporters of West Charlotte High and Collinswood Language Academy, argued that their schools should be higher on the priority list.
Diorio has asked CMS and CPCC to bring no more than $300 million in projects to the county, understanding that neither group is likely to get the full amount. Even projects that make the bond list may not begin until 2016.
Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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