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Onslow residents vote down $75-million bond referendum

By Alison Parker
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:17:04 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 29 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT
RICHLANDS, ONSLOW COUNTY -

Onslow County school officials are back to square one to find funding for their school improvement plan.

Voters shot down a $75-million bond referendum on the ballot Tuesday, which would have helped pay for replacing two schools, more security measures and large-scale renovation projects.

The vote was close to 65-35.

Had the referendum passed, county commissioners may have had to raise property taxes to about $68 dollars more a year for the average household.

Pam Thomas, chairwoman of the Board of Education, says school officials will meet with county commissioners to come up with another plan of action.

She says it's possible the bond referendum could be back on the ballot next year.

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Michelle Nila has two children at Richlands Elementary School. She says while their education inside an old building is important, so is their environment.

"It really needs some updating, especially on some of the roofs, the roofing," Nila said. "You can see there's metal hanging down from it."

And Onslow County officials know it. To try to fix these problems, county commissioners have a bond referendum on the ballot next Tuesday. Residents will vote on a $75 million bond to improve the school system.

Officials want to use about $53 million to replace Richlands Elementary School and Dixon Middle School. They'll use the rest of the money for large repairs like rooding and new air conditioning units, and increasing safety measures in the other schools.

But protecting the children may come with a price for residents. Assistant Superintendent Barry Collins says commissioners may have to raise property taxes to help pay back the bond.

School officials say the main way the county can pay for needs -- in this case, school construction -- is with property tax. The county is not authorized to alter sales tax to pay back the bond.

If the referendum passes, Onslow County property taxes could rise by 3.4 cents per $100. For the average house in the county, that's about $60 a year.

Should the community vote no, school and county officials will be back to square one to find other funding.