New schools, classrooms and fields: Brunswick school district unveils $152M bond plan

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After deciding to stand unanimously behind a divisive bond referendum, Brunswick County school board members have approved a line-item plan for projects in the $152 million proposed measure to be put to voters in November. Photo by Hilary Snow.
After deciding to stand unanimously behind a divisive bond referendum, Brunswick County school board members have approved a line-item plan for projects in the $152 million proposed measure to be put to voters in November. Photo by Hilary Snow.

Now that a proposed $152 million education bond has a spot on the Brunswick County ballot, school district leaders have put forth a spending plan aimed at educating the public ahead of November’s vote.

Earlier this week, Brunswick County school board members signed off on the plan, aimed at tackling top renovation and expansion priorities at existing schools, as well as constructing two new campuses.

The school board’s approval comes about a month after the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners finally gave the green light to the much-debated referendum. Commissioners nearly put a stop to the bond late last year amid concerns about the price tag and division on the school board about the issue.

That division came to a head in November, when member Charlie Miller stood with chairman Catherine Cooke on a failed motion to postpone the bond referendum until 2018. Then, less than two months later, the board formally stood together in unanimous support of the measure, which highlights major work that superintendent Les Tubb said is “not just about building new buildings and facility improvements.”

“They are necessary to promote the safety, security and instructional improvement efforts of the district and schools,” Tubb noted in the plan’s executive summary.

The comprehensive project list hits each of the county’s 19 schools, but gives top billing to those most in need of repairs, primarily in the northern part of the county.

As that area continues to grow at a rapid pace, Tubb said in an earlier interview that all schools in that area but one, Belville Elementary, are expected to reach maximum capacity in the next three to five years.

North Brunswick High, for example, is just about 150 students shy of hitting its max of 1,205 by 2020. Enrollment projections show that school population reaching more than 1,500 students by 2024.

To accommodate growth and overcrowding, the district hopes to build a new $24.5 million middle school in the Town Creek area to funnel students away from Leland Middle, the only other grades 6-8 school in that part of the county.

Under the bond plan, the district’s oldest school – Lincoln Elementary, which was originally built in 1957 – would get approximately $4.6 million in upgrades, including a six-classroom addition. Town Creek Elementary, too, would get six new classrooms.

On the other end of the county, West Brunswick High is also pushing its limit, with 1,394 students and a capacity of only 1,305. That campus would get a new building housing 12 classrooms, as well as a new science lab and sweeping improvements to its athletic facilities at a total cost of just over $17 million.

District leaders also hope to accommodate the increasing student body at Brunswick County Early College High, now operating in a building at Brunswick Community College, by constructing a nearly $24 million building on the campus that could house up to 500 students. The possibility of reserving some of that space for a career and technical vocation program will be discussed with the community college’s administration prior to construction, according to the approved bond plan.

In addition to improvements at each school, the district-wide departments would see upgrades totaling approximately $13 million.

The impact of the bond is, overall, an estimated four-cent increase in property taxes. On a tax bill for a $200,000 home, for example, there would be an increase of approximately $75 annually.

But since the county is still paying off the district’s $83 million bond from 1999, there would be some overlap in paying both old and new debt, meaning tax rates could be higher during certain years.

Should a majority of Brunswick County voters agree to the bond, the district would immediately start planning for work on Town Creek Middle School, as well as classroom additions at several county schools. Construction would not begin until July 2017.

Click here to view the bond plan in detail.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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