A $922 million bond referendum tops balloting in the Southeast Tuesday

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BRADENTON, Fla. – A North Carolina county’s $922 million general obligation bond referendum tops the slate of bond issues facing Southeast voters on Tuesday’s ballot.

Only one governor in the region will be chosen this year, in Virginia, where voters pick a replacement for Terry McAuliffe.

In Mecklenburg County, one of the fastest-growing areas of North Carolina with a population over 1 million, 78% of the K-12 and alternative schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system are at or over capacity.

Because of overcrowding, 20,000 public school students are taught in mobile units. Some schools, such as the 63-year-old West Charlotte High School, need to be replaced.

That’s why $922 million - the largest school bond issue ever sought in the county - is on Tuesday’s ballot, officials say. If it passes, CMS will use bond proceeds to build 17 new schools, renovate 12 facilities, and relieve overcrowding in 20 of them.

“The bonds will be issued by the county,” said Patricia Gibson, deputy director of the Financial Services Department. “They will not be issued at once but rather over multiple years to coincide with the school project planning and construction schedules.”

Although the ballot includes a provision for “a tax to be levied” to secure the bonds, officials say ad valorem taxes are not expected to be increased to pay for the new debt.

"The capacity for the new school bond debt was modeled using the existing tax structure," said Mark Foster, assistant county manager for financial services. "It is not dependent on a property tax rate increase or an increase in property values due to revaluations."

In South Florida, Miami city commissioners are asking residents to approve $400 million of GOs on Tuesday to pay for a capital program that includes projects addressing climate change.

Officials in Miami, with a balance sheet that has recovered from the recent recession and paying out a $1 million civil penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating securities laws, hope voters will see the need to back Tuesday’s referendum.

“This is an ideal time to borrow money for projects because the city’s finances are strong,” Miami said on its website. “Furthermore, property values have increased and the city is retiring its debt service millage rate, which makes it possible to do projects without raising the millage rate.”

The city expects to pay for the new debt with an existing 3% tax that was allocated to a previous bond issue.

If passed, the capital program dubbed “Miami Forever” will spend bond proceeds in five broad categories: $192 million for flood prevention and sea level rise mitigation, $100 million for affordable housing and economic development, $78 million for parks and cultural facilities, $23 million for road improvements, and $7 million for public safety.

In Falls Church, Va., the City Council is asking voters Tuesday to approve $120 million of GO bonds to build a new, five-story high school and renovate part of a middle school.

In Virginia, three candidates are vying to replace Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is term-limited out of office. The seats of all 100 House of Delegates are also up for grabs.

Candidates seeking to become Virginia’s next governor are Democrat Ralph S. Northam, Republican Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie, and Libertarian Clifford D. Hyra.

In Atlanta, 12 candidates are seeking to become the city’s 60th mayor.

The names appearing on the ballot include former Atlanta chief operating officer Peter Aman, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and three City Council members - Keisha Lance Bottoms, Kwanza Hall, and Mary Norwood.

Other mayoral candidates are former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, former State Sen. Vincent Fort, former City Council President Cathy Woolard, Glenn Wrightson, Laban King, Rohit Ammanamanchi, and Michael Sterling.

All 15 seats on the Atlanta City Council are on Tuesday’s ballot, along with the City Council president. With multiple candidates in many races the two top vote-getters in each race will face each other in a December run-off.

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General obligation bonds Bond elections Elections School bonds Government finance Public finance Mecklenburg County City of Miami, FL City of Atlanta, GA North Carolina Virginia Georgia Florida