Group rallies support for Carteret County school bond, sales tax referendums

Morehead City Chick-fil-A owner Patrick Conneely, left, shows one of several signs his group is placing around Carteret County in support of school bond and sales tax referendums to County Board of Education Chairperson John McLean prior to the start of the school board meeting Tuesday in Beaufort. (Cheryl Burke photo)

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; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(41) comments

David Collins

Intents , estimates and above all , it is for the children . The children , mind you . Now that should cinch it up . Where and when have we all heard this before ? Anyhoo , it’s your choice folks . Your debt , your burden , your faith in officials that Always have your children’s best interest in mind .

Speaking of schools and best interest in mind . Heard from the parents of a15 yr old student that just found out that a scheduled course in world history is actually a course in , get this , “ world gay history “ . Yup , made me pause . They are livid and claim that their son will not participate in that indoctrination . Anyone out there heard of that yet ? More to come I am quite sure .


Yup, you're labeled as not caring for the children if you don't approve our over the top spend and tax proposal.

"World gay history" another argument for private/home schooling.


Help me understand this bond proposal. Sounds like if it is approved we are approving endless new taxes to service the interest and new needs, etc at the will of some person not responsible to the voters? It could be a huge endless tax burden for many years to come. If you want my vote, give me a fixed budget with a timeline. Take ownership and have a plan. Not open ended.


NO. I support everything in the school bond except the free standing gyms. We do not need to take on new capital debt or increase sales tax at this time. Too many people are experiencing difficult financial times to place any additional burden on them.

Just Relax

Thanks to Patrick Conneely for taking the time out for this. We need to make sure our tax money is protected and it's great to see local business owners involved.


Passing this bond would be a big win for the entire community.


Thank you Patrick and all of the others who are leading this initiative and making our community a better place.


My father taught me so very many lessons, but two come to mind with this bond.

1. Do everything you can to create a better life for your children than I have for you.

2. Leave it in better shape than you found it.

I’m voting yes for the needs of my children. I’m voting yes for the needs of your children. I’m voting yes to make sure we continue to improve the facilities for our communities.

I’m voting yes.


"four free-standing gymnasiums"

That's absolutely ridiculous.

Over $100K for a walkway from Bogue Sound Elementary to Croatan High School, why?

Also, with schools doing partial/full remote learning, that could eliminate/reduce the need for the additional classrooms.

I recommend downloading the PDF and seeing all the waste that's in this thing.

I'm happily voting NO to both measures. Carteret County Schools already gets a large amount of funding as it is. The school system should live within its means, not finding new ways to rob the taxpayers blind.


Patrick Conneely, owner of Chick-fil-A in Morehead, is pushing for Carteret County residents to vote for the $42 million school board referendum and the sales tax increase referendum.

Mr Connely is a wealthy man.

I 'happily" voted against both referendums when casting my ballot for Trump/Pence.


Thank you to all of the hard workers behind the scene that are looking out for the best interest of our school children in Carteret County.

Many of our schools are are in desperate need of repairs and improvements. Without passing bonds like this, we won’t be able to fund the necessary projects. The free standing gyms would greatly benefit the county in a number out ways!


This is a great step for a school system that continually out performs its funding. In order to keep our schools in the top echelon, we must fund them properly. Covered walkways, HVAC systems, fences, and yes, even gymnasiums are all things that make our schools better.

I believe in improving our schools and our waterways in a responsible manner. If I’m not mistaken, the school board members and the county commissioners were in favor of both of these issues. I have trusted them to keep our taxes low for years and know they always have that in mind when making decisions that affect Carteret County citizens.

Our county has among the lowest tax rates in the state now and will still have among the lowest tax rates in the state after we support our schools and waterways.

I am in favor of these bonds.

Kevin Jones

A few of the comments on here seem shortsighted. The money to be spent on our schools is not money wasted. Great schools with competitive facilities attract families who bring with them economic growth. Companies with high paying jobs when looking to relocate from cities that are a mess right now want to be where there are great schools. The investment is good for everyone regardless of whether you have kids in the school system.


Can anyone put an ROI on this money spent?

David Collins

Families also bring more pressure on schools and community services . Have been hearing about all these mystical great paying jobs that will magically appear because of the great schools that must be created . Crickets ! They graduate and then leave to where these jobs actually exist . We live in a retirement and military pass through community . Face it .

Just Relax

For those who just vote against everything related to spending, I hope you realize all you are doing is setting up for yourself up to 1) pay more of the bill yourself 2) pay it in larger payments. Counties all over the country are going to bonds because the interest rate is so low right now, but tourist areas get a much bigger benefit from outsiders helping pay the bill. So if these get voter down the full time residents will pay a higher tax rate and have to pay it all by themselves. Use your head folks.


Or the county politicians and bureaucrats could actually be fiscally responsible and not find news ways to blow money we don't have. Save up for actual needs before going into considerable debt.


In an ideal world, maybe we could attract big business to Carteret County, but for now, it’s a fairy tale dream.

As best I can remember, other than fast food joints, car washes, a grocery store, small eateries and convenience type stores, the last big businesses that came here were Walmart and Lowes Hardware. I’m not sure you even need a high school education for these jobs.

Maybe other than $42 million for gyms, we should focus our money on education like English/Grammar, Math and Science.

I know many kids that have graduated from high school here that can’t put two complete sentences together.

Top 5 businesses in Carteret County (depending on your source)

1- Carteret County Board of Education

2- Carteret Health Care

3- Carteret County General Education & Health Services

4- County of Carteret Public Administration

5- Walmart

How many of these are supported by taxpayers?


Yes, Mr. Tesla, instead of moving your extremely large business from California to Texas, why don’t you move it to Carteret County, NC. I’ve heard they are building four new free-standing gymnasiums there.


Jeep. You’re cracking me up again!


We’ve got a major employer. It’s called FRC time famous around the whole world as the death and disability depot. Go long enough to get vested...”hurt your back”...go out on workers comp getting paid all the while pulling nets under the table doing what you said you couldn’t do.


Now that's funny as well, Sleep!

David Collins

Hope mission , Martha’s mission and all the other give away organizations qualify as big businesses in CC , don’t they ? There , now you have it , something to aspire to . Bring on the gyms for more of the same . Perhaps these supporters could actually support something other that supporting increased taxation for others .


Thank you so much for all the support for this serious topic. The schools in Carteret County have been doing a fantastic job of educating the youth in our community for many years at a reasonable price. Out of 100 counties our tax rate is the lowest.

What a bargain but imagine if we just put a little more into our schools.

Yes a lot of people in our community work on base at Cherry Point and did you know that many of those students found their jobs by being inspired in our county school system where they realized they might want to be an engineer. Some of them have gone off to become engineers and even dual enrolled at our high schools by taking stem classes to become engineers at Cherry Point. Did you look at the bond and see additions of science classrooms that could help inspire more. Many of our young students studied science and medicine and now work at Lucas Research. You should stop by there sometime and ask how many people work there that graduated from Carteret County Schools....

The locker rooms and sports fields are long overdue of being upgraded. Some of the locker rooms are even unsafe, crowded, and outdated. Some of the women's facilities are not or were not equal to the men's facilities.

We should want to inspire our young generation to live a healthy lifestyle.

These athletic and school facilities are not just for our youth but many of them are used all the time by taxpaying adults to stay in shape. These gyms can help during hurricanes. Do you remember all the crazy stuff that happened at some of our hurricane shelter sites in the past. These building would help out tremendously.

MOST of the schools in this county are really old but have been maintained to last a long time but if we do not take advantage of these low rates and maintain what we are fortunate to have or add on they will cost a lot more than 42 million dollars. HWY 24 and Down East are growing and new job opportunities are already opening up where the growth is. New schools come with new growth and new growth equals new tax revenue that will pay for this in the long run.

Look at surrounding counties and see how expensive it is to build a brand new school instead of renovating and improving what we have..

We should always want better for our young generations.

Do you really think online virtual schools can replace 100% what we have here in Carteret County, I think we have learned that is a big NO from this Covid crises we have had.

Do you think you as a parent or community member are better than the teachers we have here in Carteret County... I didn't think so. Parents have learned the struggles of what it means to just help teach one or two children in the home. IF you would like to ,see how it is to teach, become a certified substitute teacher Mr Jeep, Pepe, or Sleepwalker. The school board and Carteret County Schools are short on subs and are looking for help.

The NCHSAA is also in need of referees if you would like to come out and be a part of Carteret Count Athletics or become a booster of our local school athletics and arts.

Carteret County Citizens that care about our community VOTE YES for this school bond.

VOTE YES if you are a FISCAL CONSERVATIVE and want to save money and make a difference with your taxes. If you do not vote yes, all of these projects will not only be more expensive to fix in a few years but will also have to be borrowed at higher interest rates.

Thanks for your support and ty for all of you that continue to spread the word to vote yes.


"We should always want better for our young generations."

"It's for the children!!!" argument


Voting for a tax increase and also going into considerable debt is by no means fiscal conservatism. A lot of the stuff in the bond isn't essential. Actual fiscal conservatism would be saving up the money for things needed and then perhaps a thing or two of "nice to have" things if the funds permit.


The local Educational-Industrial Complex has gotten a craving for more money! If you don't want to feed this monster, you're not "for the children." You're just some nut-job if you think our local government should live within its means vs. shaking down the constituents for more money.

From what I've read, earlier draft versions of the bond apparently funded building a new elementary school in the western part of the county. The final version only funds the land purchase for the school. Yup, that likely means they will likely propose yet another bond referendum to fund the building of the school in the not too distant future.


A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.---Oscar Wilde

David Collins

Nowhere could I find information on how tourists help support the N C school systems . Suppose the ABC sales can help along with any fines imposed on speeders and the like . Other than that , nothing .

School bonds are simply loans that must be paid back with interest . Often missing in the pitch is just how much interest and other terms . Yes the Bonds are available for investment purchasing for special people and institutions . Contact your advisor for more info . Little surprise that the well heeled tout Bonds .

Sadly , all the funding , state 63% , federal 11% and local 26% , largely goes for “ overhead “ . Salaries, benefits and the other dead weight so common with government agencies so precious little is actually spent educating the little horrors . It shows !


I'm also curious of how much interest the bond would cost.


But we have the beach strand & offshore sand waiting to pumped.


How much growth especially the sense kind does the average citizen want?


Oscar Wilde: known for his affairs with men and convicted of Gross indecency and sodomy.

Quote: “I can resist everything except temptation”.


NC Education Lottery. The state, taxpayers, pay the salaries of teachers, teacher assistants, and support personnel, The lottery money counties receive is funding for school Construction.


“Little horrors”. Collins that’s some hilarious stuff there! Making the argument of not supporting this bond is not supporting the children is like saying if you didn’t support the war in iraq you didn’t support the troops. Not correct. There is a lot of $$$ to spread around to crony contractors here...

David Collins

Hate to break this but , up to this day in time , the N.C. Education Lottery has not in itself , built the first school . What has happened ,in true political style , the 100 counties that share in this bounty , after expenses of course and we all know that expenses can cover a multitude of sins , simply fold into their budget any anticipated returns from the lottery . Net gain is zero , nada , nothing . Another state run hoax . Please check this out . Am only human so I could be mistaken , but not this time . That is why you never hear anything about it .

Yup , this school stuff is pretty much a shell game . Heads I win , tails you lose .

relax at Shack

4 free-standing gymnasiums? So, they will be utilized as shelters, if need be, when a hurricane hits...but, what about the maintenance/wear and tear for the rest of the year? Will the high schools/White Oak have access the rest of the year? Okay, so we're nearly at the end (God willing) of this season, and there's been no need for shelters...I'm trying to wrap my head around these free-standing gyms need VS how much utilization they will actually get VS cost to build and maintain..

David Collins

Oh shack , you obviously do not see the big picture . Those 4 freestanding gyms , with all the bells and whistles , naturally , will become legacy buildings for some to crow about . See , what I / we , have done for you . As far as the little things go like care , upkeep and maintenance , another bond will fix that . Just a little one this time . Using these expensive Gyms for storm shelters comes with it’s own perils and demands . Things like back up power and water , sanitary facilities for a lot of people and food service capability for the same bunch of people . Medical capability for you just know some folks will require it , they always do at these events . Did I mention the need to be pet friendly as well ? Anyone ever utilize one of these things during and after a disastrous event ? Not had the pleasure but have heard the stories . Unless forced at the barrel of a gun heck no . Not me .


I don’t have any idea how many dollars, if any, the NC Education Lottery gives to each school district for School Construction. Just thought I'd ask.

What I do know is that spending and building 4 gyms during this economy due to the Chinese Virus, makes No sense at all.

Anyone that thinks otherwise lives in a fairy tale world. Heck, we don’t even know the future of the pandemic and how much these gyms can be used in the near or distant future.

Might be less expensive to put folks in a 4 star hotel during hurricanes.


I have lived here for over 20 years and have never seen an issue that both Republicans and Democrats agree makes good financial sense. All of our elected officials and those running for office, support these bonds. These bonds that include both a .25 property tax increase and .25 sales tax increase are the most cost effective way to get the improvements we need. School safety and heathy environments are needs and will be funded by greater property tax if we do not pass these bonds.

As a business owner and parent of two children who have graduated from the excellent Carteret County School System, there are needed improvements for the safety and well being of our children.

Investing in our schools and our waterways makes this a better community.

Please vote YES for both bonds!

David Collins

Remember listening to an interview with a candidate looking to move up the ladder in the N.C. education home office . This candidate said that to date not one school has been built with lottery proceeds . When the lottery was first proposed that was a big part of the pitch . The rules have been amended to allow the county much more leeway in how it is spent . Politicians learn fast and now reduce the education budgets by the amount of the anticipated lottery returns . Net gain , effectively zero . “This allows the carve out to be wasted in other ways“ . My words .

The name N.C. Educational Lottery was dreamed up to placate folks that were against legalized gambling . It is for education so that is OK kind of folks .

Now , this is what I heard . Don’t know if it is totally true but makes sense to me .


"Its for the children". That statement has been used to justify all manner of (false) claims for more tax money. Enough is enough. This money will be squandered like all the rest. Heck, it might even end up in the airport boondoggle in Beaufort. Anyone with sense will vote no.

Welcome to the discussion.

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