school bonds 2

Signs being used to promote the school bonds that will be put up on a referendum March 3. Early voting will begin Feb. 13 and will end Feb. 29.

Editor's Note: The Statesville Record & Landmark will take a look at each of the three areas the school bonds would cover. Here is a look at the proposed new middle school in the Mooresville Graded School District. 

What impact would a proposed new school bond have in Iredell County?

Iredell County voters will decide in March on a proposed $126 million school bond. A part of that bond, if passed, will fund a new, $35 million middle school on 70 acres off Rinehardt Road in the Mooresville Graded School District.

Officials with Iredell County and MGSD have said that the purpose of the buildings that would result from the bond is to increase school capacity to meet the needs of the growing population in southern Iredell County.

“This is a capacity bond,” said James Mallory, chairman of the Iredell County Board of Commissioners, at the Jan. 7 school bonds community meeting.

MGSD Superintendent Stephen Mauney said population growth has put a burden on schools in the district. He added that Mooresville Middle School and the district’s three elementary schools are currently either at or over capacity.

“We have a responsibility to educate our children, and we are in dire need of additional space to make that happen,” Mauney said.

The 2018 Iredell County Education Facilities Task Force, comprising county and school representatives, business leaders and county residents, reported last year that the population of Iredell County had increased by nearly 14 percent since 2010 and increased by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010.

The task force also reported that approximately 10,000 new housing units will be built in southern Iredell in the next 10 years.

Increased student capacity for MGSD?

Mauney said the new middle school would house 900 students.

Along with the new middle school, MGSD would restructure the grade levels within the school system, he said.

Currently, there are three elementary schools in the MGSD for grades K through three. The two intermediate schools house grades four through six; the lone middle school is for grades seven and eight.

If the school bond passes and a new middle school is built, the grades will be reconfigured so that elementary will house kindergarten through second, intermediate third through fifth, and middle schools sixth through eighth, Mauney said.

With the grade-level change, 450 students would be shifted to the middle-school level, making room for approximately 150 at each school in the district, he said.

“Our two biggest capacity needs are at the elementary level and at the middle school level,” Mauney said. “The new middle school is going to allow us to shift that seating capacity between those two areas.”

Mauney said that depending on where the new housing units in the county are built, the elementary attendance zones could change. The new middle school attendance zones would be similar to the existing intermediate zones.

Funding

The bond is projected to be funded through a property tax increase, Iredell County officials said.

The projection, on property valued at $100,000, is an 83-cent monthly increase on property taxes, or about a 1-cent increase based on a $100 valuation, Mallory said at the Jan. 7 school bond meeting. That adds up to nearly a $10 annual increase.

The 2014 bond was valued at more than $131 million as opposed to $126 million for the 2020 bond, according to data from Our Schools First, a group whose stated mission is to educate the community about the importance of public education.

Property taxes increased for the 2014 bond by nearly 9 percent, according to Iredell County tax data. The increase for the 2020 bond is projected to be less than 2 percent, about four times less than the 2014 increase.

Tanae Sump-McLean, the MGSD chief communications officer, said the projected increase is lower this time because of higher property values and the larger tax base.

Sump-McLean also said that another option to address the capacity issue, busing students to schools with room in northern Iredell, would be more expensive than the bond.

She said more buses would have to be purchased, fuel and upkeep costs would increase, and that the county would have to hire more bus drivers.

“The bond is the cheapest way to do it,” Sump-McLean said.

Mauney said the tax increase is minimal compared with the capacity need in the school system.

“A tax increase is a tax increase. That creates a financial burden on the people of Iredell County,” he said. “At the same time, I think it is a minimal tax increase to address a big need that our county has, especially in the southern end of the county.”

Effects on northern Iredell County

Mauney said that if the bond does not pass, county funds would have to be redirected from northern Iredell County schools to meet the capacity needs in the southern part of the county.

“If the bond does not pass, Iredell-Statesville and Mooresville Graded would be forced to bring in more and more mobile classrooms, which are a temporary fix, but are not a wise use of financial resources,” he said.

He said mobile units depreciate quickly and are not a good investment for taxpayers in the county.

Sump-McLean said the school bond would encourage economic growth and would stop crime-rate increases.

“Good schools mean businesses want to come here, which increases your tax base. That’s more income into the county. We know good schools traditionally correspond to lower crime rates, so you can pay for the kids in this county to have a good, solid education, or you can pay to build more jails and keep people in those jails,” she said. “I don’t like to even look at it as a tax increase. I look at it as an investment.”

When is the vote?

The vote for the school bonds will be March 3, during the North Carolina primaries.

There will be two voter referendums on the ballot for Iredell County: one for a new middle school in Mooresville and a new high school in southern Iredell and another for a public safety training facility and a driving pad at Mitchell Community College.

Early voting is Feb. 13-29.

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