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CoastLine: New Hanover County School Bond and the Potential Tax Impact

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on September 10, 2014.

How will a $160 million general obligation bond issue impact the New Hanover County Public School System, and what impact would its passage have on property owners?    

New Hanover County voters will have to decide in November whether to approve the $160 million school bond.  It would likely mean a tax increase for stakeholders in the county.  Supporters of the school bond say the system’s infrastructure is in dire need of renovation.  Opponents argue property owners are still paying on past bonds – and a tenfold increase in County debt over the last 20 years is unsustainable.

In a 3-to-1 vote, County Commissioners agreed to put the bond question to voters on this November’s ballot.  The one opponent on the Board, Chairman Woody White, couldn’t be with us today, but in an interview earlier this week, he explained his opposition.  We have aired Part I of that interview, and it’s posted on this website (see link below).  Stay tuned for Part 2. 

There doesn’t seem to be much dispute over the fact that County schools are in dire need of structural improvements.  What is up for debate is how to pay for those renovations. 

Recently, County Manager Chris Coudriet, announced that if this bond passes, he projects a 4-cent property tax impact.  That four cents does not include past debt – for which he says he will propose a five-cent tax rate increase for the next fiscal year.  If both of those items come to pass, it would amount to a 9-cent tax rate increase for New Hanover County property owners.  The City of Wilmington has a separate transportation bond on the table.  If that passes, it would likely bring a 2-cent tax increase – adding up to an 11-cent increase for residents in the City of Wilmington. 

But there are some who take issue with that estimate, and we explore what the various funding options are and what questions County staff wrestle with when it comes to paying for it all. 

But first, we find out exactly how this $160 million dollar school bond would be used.


Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent, New Hanover County Public Schools

Chris Coudriet, New Hanover County Manager

Lisa Wurtzbacher, New Hanover County Finance Director

Listen to Segment 1 here featuring Dr. Tim Markley.
Listen to Segment 2 here with Dr. Tim Markley and County Manager Chris Coudriet.
Listen to Segment 3 here with County Manager Chris Coudriet and County Finance Director Lisa Wurtzbacher.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.