Bond lacks E. Winston middle school
November vote expected also on bonds for parks and Forsyth Tech
BY TODD LUCK
County commissioners have begun the process to place bonds for public schools, Forsyth Technical Community College and parks and recreation on the November ballot.
Forsyth County commissioners made the decision on the bonds during a Thursday, June 9 briefing, and on Monday, June 12, approved a resolution to begin the process for bond referendums.
County Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt Kortenaar was the sole “no” vote. She
said that, while she wants a school bond, she felt the one that her colleagues approved was too large and the tax increase too high.
Bond referendums let voters approve the debt borrowed for bond projects and the tax increase needed to pay for it.
Out of $595.6 million dollars in bond requests, the commissioners narrowed it down to three separate bonds that will be on the ballot: a $350 million Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools bond, a $65 million Forsyth Tech bond and a $15 million county parks and recreation bond.
If all three are approved, county property taxes will increase by 3.6 cents per each $100 valuation in property in 2018 and another 3.8 cents in 2022.
“I agree with putting them on there and letting people make the choice,” said Commissioner Walter Marshall.
The school bond deals with aging buildings and technology along with having enough classrooms to accommodate the growing student body. It’ll pay for two new middle schools; four replacement schools, including Ashley Academy; additions to four schools; and renovations at four others.
According to school board officials, the Ashley project was added at the last minute to address concerns from the community that the East Winston community was not included in proposal talks. Board vice chairman Robert Barr has said adding the project lets the community know that the board heard their voice.
But the Community School Bond Coalition (CSBC) has raised the point that there currently isn’t a middle school in that area of the city. The coalition is made up of four community organizations: the Big Four Alumni Association, Winston-Salem Branch of the NAACP Education Committee, New South Community Coalition, and North Winston Neighborhood Association.
Among the long-deferred projects is building a new Lowrance Middle School, which will be on the campus of Paisley IB Magnet School. The bond will also increase Paisley’s capacity from 627 students to 1027. Paisley is not in East Winston.
The Forsyth Technical bond will create a new aviation program at Smith Reynolds Airport along with paying for building renovations and construction at the college’s various locations. The parks bond includes several park renovations, mostly concentrated in Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, and $5 million for a multi-use agricultural center, also at Tanglewood.
The bonds will now go through a process, which includes submitting a notice to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Local Government, and statements being filed with the Clerk of Court.
It will culminate in the Aug. 8 County Commissioners meeting, in which the public will be able to comment on the bonds and commissioners will have a final vote on each of them. Commissioners could also choose to lower the amount of the bonds then, but they cannot make them larger. After that, the bonds will go to the Board of Elections to be put on the ballot.
The commissioners said that bond requests that won’t go on the ballot will be pursued in other ways. The $20.4 million to build a new home for the combined SciWorks and Children’s Museum on the site of the old Sheriff’s Office building will be paid for with revenue from the sale of county properties. The commissioners plan to approve a capital project ordinance later in the month to make the effort official. The museums will do their own fundraising to pay for exhibits. SciWorks Director Paul Kortenaar said he was happy with the outcome.
“For SciWorks, this is perfect,” said Kortenaar. “Financing for SciWorks will have no impact on the tax burden and we’ll have a brand new museum downtown.”
Commissioners said the decision on how to renovate or replace the Hall of Justice will be made by Sept. 30.
“It’s been discussed a long time and there needs to be a final answer,” said Commissioner Don Martin.
The time will let the commissioners examine all their options. Previously, plans to replace the Hall of Justice for $145 million, and one that involves renovating and expanding it for $112 million were being considered, though the idea of renovating it for $100 million was also discussed last week.
“We want the best court house we can possibly get,” said commissioner Witherspoon about the extra time.
The courthouse would not be paid for by a bond referendum and would most likely be funded with limited obligation bonds that allow the county to borrow money without tax-payer approval. Marshall said that the commissioners will need to commit to the entire project, not just one part of the construction, or later boards of county commissioners could change or halt the project.
Staff reporter Tevin Stinson contributed to this report.