I-SS board passes resolution supporting bond referendum to fund construction of new high school
BY KARISSA MILLER
The Iredell-Statesville Board of Education approved a resolution Tuesday asking county commissioners to give voters a chance to approve a bond referendum to fund construction of a new high school in the southern end of the county.
Approval would lead to a countywide property tax increase to fund repayment of the bonds.
School officials say the new school is needed due to increased student enrollment in the southern end of the county.
Lake Norman and South Iredell High schools are both overcrowded and student populations are continuing to climb, according to I-SS officials.
School board members gave their support for the resolution, which passed on a 5-1 vote.
Board member Ken Poindexter said the possibility of a tax increase led him to vote against the resolution.
“The taxpayers are under a tremendous amount of burden in Iredell County,” said Poindexter. “They had a nine percent increase from the last school bond. They just saw their tax increase because of the property re-evaluation.”
“It’s a serious issue for Iredell County not to increase our taxes where it makes it less attractive for people to move here,” he added.
Board member Bill Howell mentioned that the board has already secured the land for the new high school and that this project is needed.
Although a tax increase may be necessary, Howell said, the county has to address school overcrowding.
“It’s something that is good for this county because it shows a progressive school system. It shows people that might be moving here that we have nice schools and I think that’s important,” Howell said.
“I’m not ready to bus children 20 miles to go to a high school. If we don’t build this school, that’s what we will end up doing,” he added.
Board member Todd Carver said previously that Lake Norman is at or over capacity and South Iredell is in the same situation.
“We can wish for it, we can hope for it, we can pray for it but at some point, we’re going to have to pay for it,” Carver said. “It’s got to be done. The bond is the only way we can pay for it.”
Despite being new to the board, Carver has hit the ground running. He attended the commissioners’ winter retreat this past year when the priority projects were first presented.
Carver also admits that he will ask questions before arriving at a final decision.
“These are not wants, but needs. We can either pay for them now or we’re going to have to pay for them 10 or 15 years from now,” Carver said.
Board member Charles Kelly said that the resolution comes at a good time.
“If we pass the resolution today and the county commissioners take the next steps, it’s going to be three or four years before we can open the new high school,” Kelly said.
“This is a great opportunity and at a great time … we can build a high school and have seats ready when we are really going to need them,” he added.
School board chairman Martin Page read a statement via text message from school board member Samuel Kennington, who was unable to conference call in to the meeting, which stated:
“I support wholeheartedly (vote yes) for asking the county commissioners to place on a ballot a bond vote with hopefully $80 million for a new high school in the southern end of Iredell County.”
Superintendent Brady Johnson said that originally the cost of building a new high school was estimated to be around $70 million.
He explained that $70 million was a “working number that the staff came up with two years ago.”
Since then school officials have talked with the architect and engineer and believe that the actual cost will be in the ballpark of $80 million.
Money from the bond sale, should it be met with voter approval, would allow I-SS to build a high school in the southern end of the county with a 1,400-student capacity, Johnson said.
The I-SS resolution
The I-SS board, Mooresville Graded and Mitchell Community College Board of Trustees have worked closely with Iredell County citizens to develop a comprehensive, long-term facility plan which identifies the construction of a new high school as the top priority for I-SS.
The long-term facility plan that was jointly developed and previously approved by this board represents a reasonable and conservative approach to meeting the educational facility needs in our community;
And, whereas the children in our community are our most important resource.
Need to Know
The Iredell County Board of Commissioners is responsible for funding facility construction projects for I-SS, Mooresville Graded Schools and Mitchell Community College.
In the past, commissioners have asked voters to approve a bond referendum, giving commissioners permission to borrow money or raise taxes for the projects.
The bond will appear on the ballot in the 2020 primary, officials stated. If passed, the tax increase would go into effect the following tax year.
Commissioner Chairman James Mallory said it’s premature to determine the rate until Mooresville Graded School District and Mitchell Community College boards’ deliver their numbers to commissioners.
“I wouldn’t take the last bond as a corollary,” he said. “We have other debt that may be coming off and will be able to compensate with an additional revenue stream.”
“We will try and keep that increase as low as we can and continue to maintain the lowest tax rate of any Charlotte regional area,” he added.