RALEIGH – North Carolina voters approved Tuesday’s $2 billion bond referendum with nearly two-thirds supporting the infrastructure projects, including $350 million designated for North Carolina’s 58 community colleges. The vote marks the initial step in the first major infusion of capital funds for the community colleges since 2000.
“Our voters understood the need to train our state’s citizens in the same high-tech, high-quality facilities that they will encounter in the workplace,” said Jim Rose, a member of the State Board of Community Colleges and co-chair of the Connect NC Committee. “They demonstrated statewide support for the work of our colleges, and for that, we are grateful.”
The amount of funding designated for each college was established by the General Assembly using a formula that looked at the age of the college’s facilities as well as the economic distress of each college’s service area. New construction projects will require a local match, based on a sliding scale linked to a county’s economic distress, while repair or renovation projects will not require a local funding match.
Dr. Bob Shackleford, President of Randolph Community College and of the NC Association of Community College Presidents, thinks that, while new construction projects are likely, many community colleges will work to fill the pent-up need for repair, updates and renovations to help modernize and maintain colleges’ infrastructure.
“Many of our colleges are using facilities that were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and budget constraints have kept them from tackling many of the capital improvement challenges they face,” Shackleford said. “The passage of this bond breathes new life into our System’s core infrastructure. We are thrilled with the statewide support from our voters.”
Community colleges will now begin the process of turning the bond possibilities into realities. Every college has a set of identified capital needs. Now, they will move forward with the approval process, which includes, at a minimum, votes by both their local boards of trustees and the State Board of Community Colleges.
Community college students, faculty and staff across the state mounted strong efforts locally to educate voters about the impact the bonds would have on higher education, state parks, the National Guard, water and sewer projects and agricultural initiatives. Additionally, many colleges supported the Connect NC Committee through contributions from non-taxpayer resources, including a $40,000 contribution from the state-level NC Community Colleges Foundation.
“March 15 proved to be an incredible great day for our colleges and for North Carolina,” said Scott Shook, Chair of the State Board of Community Colleges. “I appreciate all of our folks who worked to help get the vote out and to make sure those voters were informed. We will be benefitting from the impact of this vote for years to come.”