Mecklenburg County voters approved a massive $2.5 billion bond package for school construction with 63% in favor of a public referendum on Nov. 7, 2023. And now the Local Government Commission (LGC) has unanimously approved the general obligation bonds, to be paid for with a 3-cent property tax increase phased in during 2025, 2028 and 2029. It is the largest amount of tax-exempt financing ever handled by the LGC.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools currently operates 184 schools. It is the second largest school district in the state, behind only Wake County. According to bond proponents, the projects will allow CMS to provide adequate facilities throughout the Mecklenburg County. According to the school district web site, “30 high-priority projects” will be funded. Plans call for three new schools to be built to accommodate student growth, 16 schools to be replaced on-site, and two replaced off-site. Construction and renovation of other schools and facilities, including a regional athletic complex, are part of the plans.
The LGC is chaired by State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and staffed by the Department of State Treasurer (DST). It has a statutory duty to approve most debt issued by units of local government and public authorities in the state. The commission examines whether the amount of money that units borrow is adequate and reasonable for proposed projects and confirms the governmental units can reasonably afford to repay the debt. It also monitors the financial well-being of more than 1,100 local government units.
Among other items on the agenda approved at the Feb. 6 LGC meeting were requests for nearly $300 million in financing for assorted public works, recreation and housing projects.
The town of Wilson (Wilson County) hit it out of the park when it won approval to issue $73 million in special obligation bonds to acquire, build and equip a multipurpose baseball stadium and entertainment complex. The baseball stadium will be used by the Carolina Mudcats, a Single-A minor league franchise of the Milwaukee Brewers that currently plays games at Five County Stadium in Zebulon. City officials told the LGC that the Brewers’ ownership of the team secures stadium lease payments. Outdoor concerts, festivals and other events could be held at the venue.
The Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County successfully asked the LGC to sign off on $100 million in revenue bonds to expand the Rocky River Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. The work is expected to include purchasing and installing new equipment, additions, extensions and replacement of capital assets.
Cabarrus County received LGC approval of a nearly $4.4 million financing agreement. It will allow the county to enter into a 10-year agreement to lease stretchers for the county’s EMS ambulances.
The N.C. Medical Care Commission got an LGC green light for $90 million in conduit revenue bonds to allow United Methodist Retirement Homes (Pitt County) to design, develop and build a 57-unit independent living apartment building at Cypress Glen. Remodeling, upgrades and site improvements to existing facilities and land are included in the proposal.
The town of Davidson (Iredell and Mecklenburg counties) requested that LGC members extend authorization to issue $6.9 million in bonds for three years. The town has faced ongoing delays and procurement challenges for planned projects amid changes in market conditions. The request was granted.
LGC members approved a request from Reidsville (Rockingham County) to approve a nearly $4.9 million increase in a state revolving loan to replace return and waste pumps. No additional treatment capacity will result, but the work will allow for greater removal of minerals and gas to meet compliance standards. Total project cost will increase to more than $8.8 million.
The LGC voted to OK a request from Inlivian, the Charlotte housing authority (Mecklenburg County), to issue $2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds to finance the Fairhaven Glen project. Initial financing was approved for $21 million. It was determined more was needed to finish the project and to comply with low-income housing tax credits being used to help finance the project.
The Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority (Surry and Wilkes counties) was granted the go-ahead for slightly more than $1 million through a revolving loan. Proceeds will be used for repairs to manholes and pipes, and pipe replacement to alleviate environmental pollution at its regional pump station. The authority also asked the LGC to approve its application for a $206,681 increase in a revolving loan to replace and repair sewer lines and manholes. Hurricanes Florence and Michael and other extreme weather events damaged the 40-year-old infrastructure. That request also was granted.
Caswell County plans to enter into a lease agreement for five vehicles to replace five Sheriff’s Department cars that are over 10 years old and have high mileage. The move was made possible with LGC approval of an installment arrangement, which allows the county to pay incrementally over time instead of all at once.