CCCC's bond measure request gives county pause
A resolution calling for a bond referendum, a means of funding $23 million in projects at Central Carolina Community College, got a less-than-favorable reception from some Lee County Commissioners Tuesday.
Commissioners Charlie Parks and Jim Womack met with a group of CCCC trustees during a budget workshop to discuss the community college's proposed $2.5 million budget for the coming fiscal year and a $23 million bond referendum — which would fund the construction of a Health Sciences Center and renovations to the Veterinary Medical Technology Program, Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, Emergency Services Training Center and Business Incubator — set to be placed on the 2014 election ballot. The college trustees approved a resolution during an April 24 meeting that called on commissioners to place the referendum on the ballot and provide funding for the college's capital needs "by issuance of bond or otherwise."
Womack said he was not predisposed to support the referendum, and Parks said he had mixed feelings about what the county should do.
"What we are trying to do is attack the debt we have," Womack said. "We have taken a pause for one year to study our debt situation until we can figure out what we can do. We've even suggested a new target where we don't take on any debt we can't pay back in 10 years."
Parks agreed and said he was startled to learn about the county's debt service payments when he first joined the board. Every year, he said, the county pays $3 million on interest.
"How do we push that a few years and make sure we are not in such debt that we can't afford it," Parks said. "That's the problem I have. If someone can come and sit down with me and say, 'Ok, we've figured this thing out. Here's how we can do it.' I'll be glad to listen."
The county is expected to pay $7.4 million, or 13 percent of its budget, toward debt service in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to a previous budget presentation by Lee County Manager John Crumpton.
If he were able, Parks said he'd write the college a check for all of their funding needs, but the county had to find a way to not overtax the Lee County residents.
The county believes in the mission of the community college, and the trustees recognize the commissioners' concern for their debt load, said CCCC Trustee Chairman Julian Philpott. Overall, he said, the meeting was productive and the college will be excellent stewards of the taxpayers' money.
The college will, however, keep pushing for the bond referendum, said CCCC President Bud Marchant.
"Absolutely," he said. "This will not appear until 2014, so we have a year and a half."
If the Lee County Commissioners placed the CCCC bond referendum on the ballot, and it is then approved by a vote of the people, the funds would provide for:
* The construction of a Health Sciences Center, estimated at $9 million, for workforce training programs and expanding the college's allied health programs.
* Renovation and expansion of the Veterinary Medical Technology facility, estimated at $5 million, to meet the demand of the college's “most successful” and competitive program.
* Renovation and expansion the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center to address safety concerns and create additional conference space for $4 million.
* Renovation of a variety of facilities, including replacement of the Joyner Hall roof, expansion of the Emergency Services Training Center and expansion of the welding program for $4 million.
* Renovation of the building, located at 130 S. Steele St., donated to the college to house the Small Business Center and serve as a small business incubator.