EDITORIAL: Citizens are right ones to decide CCCC bonds

Jul. 24, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Now it's up to the voters.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners unanimously has agreed that four bonds — totaling $23 million — will appear on the November ballot.

The bonds would be used to benefit Central Carolina Community College — a $9 million bond for a new health science building, a $5 million bond to renovate the college’s Veterinary Medical Technology facility, a $4 million bond to renovate CCCC’s Emergency Services Training Center and other facilities, and a $5 million bond to renovate the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

CCCC belongs to the people — and, as CCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Julian Philpott said at Monday's commissioner meeting, the community college is one of Lee County's shining stars. The school consistently has proven its worth, ushering graduates into better futures and providing employers with a pool of qualified, local candidates.

“As we look at economic development, these bond requests we place before you are important for continuing workforce development and job training," Philpott has said. "Businesses and industries want specialized training. We have the ability to provide that.”

Commissioner Jim Womack expressed some valid concerns, particularly his worry that voters weren't getting the whole picture. He said new elementary schools will be needed soon, and constitutionally must be provided, which would further increase the burden to the taxpayer. The rate could rise by 7-10 cents, he cautioned — although others have disputed that figure, saying that if the projects were stretched over a five-year period, the tax implications could be negligible.

Citizens should bear the financial implications in mind as they decide the CCCC bonds, among other considerations. Is the college an asset that warrants and deserves our investment? Undoubtedly. However, are there better ways than bonds to achieve the desired result, as Womack has suggested? It's worth discussing.

But the fact remains — the community college has presented plans for areas that need addressed, and as of this writing, there is no such proposal for an elementary school. CCCC has waited patiently to take this step, and the time will never come when other entities don't have needs too.

As the commissioners' unanimous vote indicates, there was no valid reason to keep the bonds off of the ballot — even to those who are not sold on the proposals. The voters should and will determine their fate.

The CCCC trustees did as they ought by bringing these requests to the commissioners — and the commissioners did likewise by not letting politics get in the way of what should rightfully be the decision of the general public.

Whatever the outcome, the choice is in the right hands.