GOLDSBORO – A five-year plan to complete 40 school projects in Wayne County can begin if voters approve a quarter-cent sales and use tax referendum added to the March 3 primary election ballot.
In a joint meeting, the Wayne County Board of Education and Wayne County Board of Commissioners approved the construction, improvements and safety of the county’s 27 public schools that must be addressed in the coming years.
Wayne County’s current tax rate is 6.75% on every dollar. The quarter of a penny sales and use tax would generate about $2.6 million annually, according to the Wayne County Finance Department. Items exempt from the sales tax are gas, prescription medications and non-prepared foods or groceries.
The towns of Fremont and Mount Olive have passed resolutions in support of the tax increase.
Don Christopher West, chair of the Wayne County Board of Education, described the announcement as “historical.”
“This referendum has bi-partisan support and has been designed in such a way that Wayne County citizens can see exactly how monies from this small sales tax increase will be spent and what a tremendous impact it will have on our schools and communities moving forward,” West said.
The largest expenditure in Phase I is an $18 million renovation to Fremont Elementary.
The next-largest price tag is $5 million in repairs and construction to eight classrooms at both Northeast Elementary and Rosewood Elementary.
Window replacements are scheduled for Goldsboro High School, Eastern Wayne High School and Dillard Middle School. Goldsboro High will also have a new HVAC system installed. Those projects will cost nearly $3 million.
A new fieldhouse and gym renovation totaling $1.5 million is planned at Spring Creek High School. Portable restroom replacements, needed to meet guidelines mandated by the state, will occur at Charles B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne.
Rosewood High School and Carver Heights Elementary are slated to receive new roofs.
Greenwood Middle School needs a boiler replacement.
Safety and security upgrades are scheduled for all 27 schools. The plan includes safety vestibules, keycard building access, surveillance, playground fencing and other aspects of school safety. The improvements will cost $1.418 million.
E. Ray Mayo, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, said the invaluable funding stream will help address the school district’s more critical facility needs.
“It’s a positive day in Wayne County when these two boards can come together for the future of our children,” Mayo said. “Though the need is great, and this is only the beginning, we are proud to begin the necessary steps towards construction, improvements and most importantly safety for our public schools.”
Dr. Michael Dunsmore, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools, said the county also awaits the approval of the state budget. If passed, $19.1 million will be provided to the county to build a new Rosewood Middle School.
Dunsmore said Phase II of the school project could include a significant change in the southern part of the county.
There is discussion to combine Brogden Middle School and Mount Olive Middle School, and build a new middle school somewhere between the Spring Creek and Brogden area since it’s experienced a growth in population. Dunsmore said the University of Mount Olive has expressed interest in purchasing the Mount Olive Middle School property.
Dunsmore and Dr. David L. Poole, president of University of Mount Olive, have spoken several times.
“We’re in negotiations,” Dunsmore said. “Obviously, with a new middle school, we need somewhere between 25 and 30 million dollars. Again, it’s going to come back to the funding sources and streams in what we have and where the state is going to be with that.”
A series of community meetings to provide information about the school projects and proposed quarter-cent sales tax will be announced soon. The meetings are open to the public.