School Board Requests $133.4 Million Bond Referendum

The Johnston County Board of Education has approved a resolution formally asking Johnston County Commissioners to place a bond issue before voters.

In the resolution, the school board requested Commissioners place a $133.4 million bond before voters on November 6th.

The original resolution on Tuesday’s school board agenda was for $61 million. But after the board met in closed session Tuesday afternoon, they increased the amount to $133.4 million.  The amount is still less than the $207 million in “needs not wants” Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow asked county commissioners for in March.

Left to right: Johnston County School Board Chairman Mike Wooten and Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow.

The $133.4 million includes the construction of a new $55 million high school, a $24 million elementary school, $4.5 million to expand Archer Lodge Middle and $4.5 million to expand Four Oaks Middle School. $45.4 million would be used for renovations at other campuses.  Officials said it represents immediate needs.

“While we understand countywide budgetary priorities, this Board understands fully its responsibility to conduct the work of the largest business in Johnston County, our school system.  The success of public education depends greatly upon the resources and facilities it uses to teach and promote learning,” said Michael Wooten, Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Education.

The school board said 191 mobile units are in use across the district with 2,540 students using 113 of the mobile classrooms full-time. The other 78 mobile units are for other instructional purposes.  The $133.4 million would eliminate 88 of the 113 mobile units for about 2,040 students who could then be housed in newly constructed classrooms.

The resolution was approved 5-to-0. School board members Butler Hall and Ronald Johnson were not present for the April 10th meeting.

Impact On Property Taxes
Last month, Johnston County Manager Rick Hester said the County can afford a total bond referendum package from Johnston County Schools and Johnston Community College of approximately $70 million in 2018 without raising property taxes.

Johnston Community College wants a $25 million bond referendum to go before voters this November to help pay for a 71,000 square foot building for Early College and JCC engineering students. The building would be equal the size of a 2-A high school, JCC President Dr. David Johnson told commissioners in February. Johnson said the total needs at the college are $91 million to meet a projected 37 percent enrollment increase in the next 20 years.

Approximately $35 – $40 million is also needed for a public safety center including a new county jail site proposed on US 70 Business east of Smithfield.

The current property tax rate is 78 cents. Of that amount, 36 cents goes towards current funding of Johnston County Schools and debt repayment. Broken down, 23 cents goes to operating expenses this fiscal year. 13 cents goes towards payments on $249.7 million in existing debt for previously built schools. Many of the loans for school buildings were financed for 18-20 years.