BEAUFORT — Patrick Conneely, owner of Chick-fil-A in Morehead City, who is leading a grassroots group endorsing school bond and sales tax referendums, encouraged residents to vote for both during the Tuesday, Nov. 3 General Election.
Mr. Conneely, sporting several signs supporting both efforts, spoke during the public comment time of the Carteret County Board of Education meeting, held Tuesday in the school system’s central office on Safrit Drive.
He also spoke to school advisory council members during a virtual meeting held with the BOE prior to the start of the regular session.
“As a businessman and local taxpayer, I have taken a great deal of time to look at these bonds to see that they include needs and not wants and that bonds are the most cost effective way of financing these projects,” he said. “I am confident on both fronts that this is the way to go.”
Mr. Conneely said he and other county business owners started Carteret Citizens Advocating Responsible Spending to advocate for the school bond and sales tax referendum with the slogan, “Bonds Make Good Cents.”
Proceeds from the $42 million school bond referendum, if passed, would go to multiple school capital projects and improvements across the county, including classroom additions and construction of four free-standing gymnasiums that would be shelter-ready in the event of a hurricane. Those gyms would be at the three high schools and at White Oak Elementary School.
The measure will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot as follows: “Shall the order authorizing $42,000,000 of bonds plus interest to pay the capital costs of improving, renovating, replacing and equipping school facilities, including without limitation school buildings, safety and security measures, maintenance/transportation facilities, athletic and physical education buildings and facilities, and acquiring land for future school needs and other necessary rights-in-land for the Carteret County school system, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?”
Another measure will appear on the ballot for a quarter-cent sales tax increase. If it passes, county commissioners have said they intend to split the additional sales tax revenue between debt service on the school bond borrowing and paying for waterway management efforts, like dredging.
Commission members estimated in July the quarter-cent sales tax could raise about $3.6 million annually. The sales tax increase, if passed, won’t apply to prescription medications, food items, gasoline and automobiles.
The measure will appear on the ballot reading: “Local sales and use tax at the rate of one-quarter percent (0.25%) in addition to all other State and local sales and use taxes.”
Voters can answer “yes” or “no” to the measures. To pass, either referendum must receive a majority of “yes” votes.
As for the school bond referendum, County Finance Director Dee Meshaw said in May the estimated total debt service for $41.88 million was 2.22 cents in ad valorem property tax. Another project has been added since then, bringing the total to $42 million. She could not be reached for an updated estimate.
She did say in May the debt would not occur all at one time, but would be done in increments over a few years.
Bond projects include classroom expansions at several schools, covered walkways, HVAC system renovations and security upgrades, among other improvements. It also includes $2.5 million for the purchase of land for a new elementary school in the western part of the county to relieve overcrowding at WOES.
Following Mr. Conneely’s presentation, all seven members of the school board endorsed passage of the school bond referendum, as well.
“The bonds are a big thing for our county and the children deserve the things on the list,” board member Jake Godwin said.
Board member Travis Day agreed.
“It’s an investment not only in our students, but it’s an investment in our community,” he said.
In a follow-up email to the News-Times Thursday,Mr. Conneely said when he heard about the bond and sales tax proposals, “I had to do a little research. I attended school board and county commissioner meetings. Myself and a group of friends had the opportunity to personally walk the projects proposed on the bond and I became so convinced that the contents of the bonds are needs, not wants, and that bonds are the most cost-effective way of funding these projects that I decided to make a concentrated effort to get that message out.”
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.