Elections

Voters strongly support $2B bond plan, which mainly boosts higher education

Students inside a chemistry lecture hall inside the Burson building at UNC Charlotte. A bond referendum would pay for a new science building to replace the current outdated facility.
Students inside a chemistry lecture hall inside the Burson building at UNC Charlotte. A bond referendum would pay for a new science building to replace the current outdated facility. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Voters on Tuesday strongly supported a $2 billion bond referendum that mainly funds building needs at public universities and community colleges, including UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College.

The measure looked to cruise to easy approval, with 66 percent favoring it, according to final but unofficial returns.

Nearly two-thirds of the money will go to the universities and community colleges. The rest will be spent on water and sewer projects, state parks and facilities for agriculture, public safety and the National Guard.

The referendum was the state’s biggest in 15 years.

The higher education portion of “Connect NC” – $1 billion for the UNC campuses and $350 million for community colleges – will largely go to buildings for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and facilities to train nurses and other health care professionals.

For instance, UNCC, the fastest growing campus in the UNC system, will get $90 million for a sciences building to replace the cramped and outdated two-story Burson building.

UNCC had under 11,000 students when Burson opened in 1985 and has nearly 28,000 this year. About 15,000 students take at least one science lab course at the school each year.

CPCC will receive $9.6 million. Part of CPCC’s money will build a second central energy plant at the central campus. The plant will meet the energy needs of planned buildings being funded by 2013 Mecklenburg County bonds.

Conditions are similar to the those at the Burson building elsewhere in the state. At UNC-Chapel Hill, one bond project will spend $68 million toward replacing the seven-story Berryhill Hall, headquarters of the state’s largest medical school.

The bond referendum came 15 years after voters overwhelmingly approved $3.1 billion for the UNC system and community colleges. At the time, it was the largest higher education bond issue in U.S. history. The money unleashed an astonishing construction boom, with 728 projects across the state, adding 12 million square feet of space.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

Results

No 34.44%

Yes 65.56%

2,709 of 2,709 precincts reporting

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