Guilford County school system is getting rich

$1.7 billion.

This is the amount voters approved for Guilford County to borrow to fund the construction of new schools and the repair of old ones.

Once that money is borrowed, the county will have to repay that amount plus about $800 million in interest over the next two decades.

Late last year, when it became clear that the Guilford County Board of Commissioners was going to put a $1.7 billion school bond referendum on the ballot this year, some county commissioners county said they thought it would not pass due to the massive size of the referendum. during a pandemic and in times of economic uncertainty. They said it would have been better for the schools to ask for $700 million or $800 million and come back and ask for more when they ran out of that money.

But county voters clearly had no problem with the huge prize. When the final results were tallied on Tuesday May 17, 61% of those voters had approved of the measure while only 39% had voted no.

A senior county official said Tuesday that a saving grace is that schools can only spend money so quickly. Even if $1.7 billion was approved, he said, it will take years and years for the money to actually be used, as the past two decades have shown that schools in Guilford County do not can’t spend money at nearly the rate the school board thinks is possible.

For example, Guilford County voters approved $300 million for the school system in a bond referendum two years ago, and schools only spent a few million dollars of that money.

And, in May 2008, Guilford County voters approved $457 million in school bonds that school board members said were needed immediately — and ten years later, the school system was struggling to spend the last few. million of that money before the expiry of the period of use.

Jeremy S. McLain