The Iredell County Board of Commissioners approved a $126 million school bond package that will be put to the voters in the form of a referendum in March.
The board approved the issuance of $115.5 million in school bonds for Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School district and $10.5 million in Mitchell Community College bonds following a public hearing Tuesday.
The discussion on the bonds lasted approximately two hours.
Four speakers, both school system superintendents, a representative of Mitchell Community College and Jennifer Christian, the chairman of the Iredell County Education Facilities Task Force, told the commissioners why they supported the bonds.
“The task force really worked over two-plus years reviewing capacity data at all schools, looking at housing start data and population growth projections, going over existing and deferred maintenance projects, conducting school and facility tours and site visits throughout I-SS, Mooresville Graded and Mitchell,” Christian said. “All in an effort to fully understand the expansion, renovation and potential construction needs for educational facilities in the county.”
Christian said there was unanimous approval from the task force which she described as being comprised of people from all walks of life in Iredell County.
“Phase 1 is only three years of that 10-year plan and those being the most mission critical and time-sensitive projects,” Christian said. “Just to give some additional background due to the effective management of funds by the county and those of the districts and at Mitchell as well as the positive bid climate, lowering the anticipated closing costs and favorable interest rates the county found itself in a very fortunate position, actually, with the bond reserve fund from this process last year, in 2014.”
With the management from the previous bond, many of the Phase 1 critical projects were able to be completed, she said.
“So just a quick kind of overview of what those will include for I-SS that means that West high will receive a new state-of-the-art vocational shop as well as renovated and repurposed old shop area; Statesville High School will see new CTE shops to support the career and tech program as well as physical education upgrades; and Lakeshore Elementary School will see an addition of four to six classrooms. All of those were identified in phase one that are taken care of with the sound fiscal management of those bond reserve funds,” Christian said.
In addition to I-SS, Mooresville Graded School District and Mitchell Community College were able to see some of the bond reserve funds, she said.
“Additionally for the Mooresville Graded School District, this means that with the combination of the bond reserve funds and a loan, they will be able to take care of renovating and upgrading South Elementary and Park View elementary schools including adding a gymatorium (multipurpose gym area) in each school, upgrading the mechanical, electrical and plumbing as well as increasing parking at South Elementary and expanding the cafeteria at Park View Elementary,” Christian said.
“And for Mitchell Community College, they were able to make some steps to acquire some needed land or renovate the Career Science Building. I just point that out because they were all Phase 1 mission critical needs that have been taken care of from some bond reserve fund dollars from 2014.”
However, there are three Phase 1 critical needs that are not covered by the bond reserve funds, she said.
For Mooresville Graded that is a new middle school. For Iredell-Statesville, that is a new high school.
Christian said capacity issues are personal to her. Her son has just started at South Iredell High School this year, she said, adding that it is over capacity and brought in its largest class ever of more than 480 students. Lake Norman High School is also over capacity, she said.
In reference to the 2014 bond, she said that those projects and buildings will be complete in the fall of 2020, so this has been done over a six-year period — and the schools are over capacity now, Christian said.
Mitchell Community College’s needs are different but have also been identified as critical.
“I would submit there is strong data and support to fund the remaining Phase 1 critical education facility needs that were identified in the 10-year master plan,” Christian said. “Keep in mind these are not all of the needs these are the ones that were identified as Phase 1 mission critical in the first three years of that 10-year plan.”