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Wake County commissioners to weigh whether to fund the CTE high school

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How high a priority should there be getting the new Wake County career and technical education high school online for the 2014-15 school year?

As noted in today's article, the school board passed this resolution on Tuesday asking the county commissioners to acquire, renovate and outfit a former Coca-Cola bottling plant in South Raleigh for use as the new CTE school.

If the commissioners opt to help with the funding then it could still open in August 2014. If not, the opening would come after 2014 or not at all.

The issue here is money.

Wake County Manager David Cooke said that because neither the school system nor Wake Tech wanted to use their own money, it was left up to the county to come up with it.

"We don't have $25 million lying around so we tried to find a way that made sense," Cooke said.

Cooke said what they've got is $250 million in debt capacity that can be used without raising property taxes. About $200 million of that is committed to this fall's Wake Tech bond referendum.

The remaining $50 million is being used to pay the debt service on bonds. But Cooke said they can use some of that money to pay the lease for the Coca-Cola facility.

Within five years, the county would buy the plant. The idea is to pay for the purchase cost from the cash portion of the next school construction program.

Most of the school construction program would be paid for by a likely 2013 bond referendum. If the bond failed, Cooke said they'd have to look elsewhere to come up with the cash for the purchase cost.

There are also other obstacles that could hold the school up even if the commissioners front the lease money.

The developer needs to get site plan approval from Raleigh. The developer also has to see how much it would cost for the off-site road improvements that would be required by Raleigh and the state Department of Transportation.

The commissioners are scheduled to discuss the lease deal on Oct. 1.

If the commissioners opt out, the school board could go back to a prior proposal from staff to include it in the bond issue. But Cooke said that option meant the school wouldn’t open in 2014 and that the county could lose the site if the developer chose to go in another direction.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.