The Wake County Taxpayers Association isn’t just opposing this fall’s $810 million school bond issue because it would raise property taxes.
As noted in today’s article by Thomas Goldsmith, the WCTA is also challenging whether the Wake County school system needs all the new seats that would be provided by the bond. It’s a direct challenge to school bond supporters who say passage of the bond is needed to keep up with growth.
“We didn’t take an unofficial position until we had all the facts,” said WCTA Chairman Ed Jones.
Jones cited an analysis by retired consultant Anthony Pecoraro, the group’s vice president of external affairs.
“The analysis that he has come up with is that now, and in the near future, we do not need additional buildings,” Jones said. “We have plenty of classroom space if the system uses the classroom space efficiently.”
Pecoraro said his analysis is based in part on the existence of more than 600 portable classrooms, which he said could provide seats for an estimated 15,000 students. The analysis did not examine whether reassignment would be necessary to make best use of seats throughout the system.
“Reassignment is something that happens every September, so there’s nothing new about that,” Pecoraro said.
In the past, school board members have said that while there are empty seats, they’re not necessarily in locations where it’s easy to assign students to. They’ve said that, for instance, you wouldn’t want to reassign students from western Wake to fill empty seats in eastern Wake.
School board chairman Keith Sutton said that while he hasn’t seen the taxpayers association’s numbers, school facility staff have looked at them and reached a different conclusion.
“They’re just dead wrong,” Sutton said of the WCTA’s analysis.
The WCTA further says that growth projections don’t take into account the number of students leaving the public system for charter, private and home schooling.
But Sutton points to how even during this weak economy Wake is getting 3,000 new students a year. Based on how growth increased enrollment by 7,000 students a year during the economic boom last decade, Sutton said there’s no question they need the bond to pass this fall.
Sutton said passing the bond is the responsible thing to do to ensure that Wake doesn’t fall behind in capacity, as it did after a school bond failed in 1999.
“To say that we don’t need it is irresponsible,” Sutton said.