May 032007

Twenty-three schools over 5 years for $671 million dollars — incredible!

It’s such a staggering amount of money.

Charlotte Observer: Draft envisions 23 new schools

From the story:

As expected, the plan outlines the number of new schools the district believes it needs in the next few years, and you’ll need more than your fingers and toes to count them. In the plan:

• 23 new schools. Six are already under construction.

• Classroom additions to 12 schools. Five are under construction.

• Miscellaneous projects, including widening part of N.C. 200 near the entrance to the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, increasing the size of Weddington High’s stadium, and land acquisitions.

The capital improvement plan does not include monies to fund school operation which is a separate expense and funded in the annual county budget.

When you consider the forecast chart, keep in mind that our school enrollments have increased yearly by 7-10 or more percent the last few years and 2007 fall enrollment has been forested for another 13%. Given a continued pace of growth of 8 to 10% per year, construction cost inflation, a bond life of 20 years — how long will it take for the the county’s debt load to double? $2.2 billion in eight or ten years?

Taxpayer Debt Amount
Current Bond Debt $493,000,000
Projected Capital Improvement Plan (23 schools) $671,000,000
Total Bond Debt by 2012 ((Figure includes only school CIP)) $1,167,000,000

Debt per capita


Now consider this: Union County taxpayers are paying 63.7¢ (per $100) today, which includes servicing our existing bond debt of $493 million. Care to forecast what our tax rate when we triple our debt by 2012?

$1.1 billion dollar debt by 2012 — According to three of our commissioners, growth pays for itself.

Facebook Comments
 Posted by at 8:22 pm

  17 Responses to “Union County to build 23 new schools @ $671Million in 5 years”

  1. Fine, you don’t want more residential single-family-homes built because it will laden the county with debt? How about approving some retirement community proposals, or some commercial development- none of which will add to the school load?

    BTW- just a question here.. In urban areas (chicago for example) the housing density is 20x higher than union county’s 1 house per acre. Yet somehow, the residents are able to afford the cost of building and maintaining schools. And don’t forget- every square inch of land is already covered with housing.

    So how come Union County is going to go broke with 1/20th the density of most urban regions in the US?

    Something doesn’t compute.

  2. And by the way, in case everyone has forgotten, commercial real estate is CLEARLY a net generator of revenue for the county coffers.

    But towns such as marvin and weddington keep electing officials who will do anything possible to stop commercial development. It took 4 years to finally get a small development built in Marvin on highway 16, after being micromanged to death by town officials.

    Did any of you see the email sent out by Marvin a couple weeks ago where they were looking for someone to serve as a full-time “Zoning Czar” ? It would be the first full-time Marvin employee. And it’s hilarious becuase there are only about 300 acres of land left in Marvin that haven’t been developed yet.

  3. Keep trying to blow your smoke. You get an A for effort.

    Facts…the accessed property value in Union County went from 5.5 billion in 1997 to 14.6 billion in 2006. At the same time, with all the growth and all the school construction…the debt to value went from 1.45% to 1.95%. The sky is falling….ahhhhh, help.

    To better understand what that means….a revenue neutral tax rate today (a rate that would have collected the same amount of money in 2006 as in 1997) would be roughly 1/3 of our current rate. So instead of a .56 cent rate we could collect the same dollars for .20 cents. Because we grew, our tax rate had to stay roughly the same to pay for the cost of the growth. If we had no growth, the rate would have stayed roughly the same as well….no new accessed value to help pay the way (but none of the costs associated) It all works out in the end. Just not easy for the socialist mind to grasp.

    The anti-growth folks want to make everybody think the world is ending. It is all economics. Always has been difficult to explain it to the leftos. They still can’t figure out how Reagan cut taxes and increased revenues. Seriously, it does boil down to a socialist mindset. I know you guys hate to be called out and you always cry when we point it out, but it is a sickness and you won’t get better until you accept it. I think it may really be time to start a SA chapter in Union County.

  4. “Growth Pays For Itself”


    Learn from the mistakes of others, Union County: The Cabarrus Youth Tax

  5. $671 MILLION is a staggering amount of money. Hard to wrap your brain around this. This calculates to each school costing approximately $29 Million.

    My question: are we still importing materials for these? Are we still using contractors from other parts of the state, country? How much of the cost of the actual school is inflated because of transporting materials, laborers traveling, their hotel and food, insurance, wear on trucks, equipment?

    Does the school board/commissioners look inside Union County, or at least closer to our county for contractors and materials?

    Hard questions. We need some real answers.

    Liza Yow

  6. Mark Raines,
    Im sorry I don’t agree with your assessment and example of Chicago. Your talking about a county (Cook) that has 3-5 million people. A Budget of 3.667 Billion dollars for their school system alone. Has 227.1 sq miles. They have vast zoning from the estate size to the projects size that has to have in excess of 25 residences to 1 acre of land. Maybe we should compare Union County to some place more like us. Apples to apples if you will.

  7. Economics? Try the simple concept of “supply and demand.” The high density, one on every corner housing market in “some” areas of Union County are actually keeping property values down. Try looking for a home under $250,000 in Marvin…there are none. Weddington? About a handful. Waxhaw and Indian Trail…more than you care to count. When the supply exceeds the demand, the prices go down and reselling a property is almost completely out of the question.

    That is why the price of land is the highest in Marvin and Weddington. Less supply. Add to that the value of a little aesthetics (I know…those pesky buffers, setbacks and open space) and you have an area with high demand which commands higher prices.

    Can’t say the same for the high density towns.

  8. Actually the prices of land is highest in Marvin and Weddington because of the proximity to Rea Road and all the shopping that is appearing along the 485 loop, and because of the public school system filled with children of wealthy parents. There never was much poverty in Marvin and Weddington, unlike every other town in western union county.

    But if you’re trying to claim that land with MORE restrictions on it and lower density makes it more valuable, then riddle me this:

    Marvin is basically a town that is split into two halves. One side of any given road is inside Marvin, and the other side is just unicorporated union county. You’ve got unsightly berms right up to the edge of the road on the unicorporated side, and open space on the Marvin side. It doesn’t matter how restrictive the tree ordinances are, or how detailed the zoning is about what kind of sign you can have at the entrance to a development, the fact is YOU CAN SEE RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET INTO THE AREAS WHERE THERE IS NO RESTRICTIVE ZONING.

    Guess how much more the land on the unicorporated side is worth per acre than the land inside Marvin? About 40 to 100 percent more- because of the possibility of building higher density sometime in the future. Or -heavens forbid- commercial development!

    Oh, btw, speaking of pesky buffers and stream setbacks, I’m sure you’re aware that the carolina heelsplitter was a giant scam from the very beginning that was intended as a last ditch effort to stop any additional houses being built near an activist’s home. It had absolutely nothing to do with trying to save an endangered species:

    “Peter Larsen, 26 Spanish Oaks Drive, Asheville, North Carolina, owns land on Fairview Road
    (Highway 218). Mr. Larsen said he was the one responsible for letting the “cat out of the bag” about
    the heelsplitter. Years ago, in 1995, a fellow from Ashe Plantation came to him and asked what
    could be done to stop development. Mr. Larsen suggested that the best way would most likely be
    to find an endangered species; and, the gentleman worked with an attorney in Asheville and came
    up with the heelsplitter mussel as an endangered species.”

    That’s the kind of anti-growth eco-wacko hypocrisy that makes a lot of people very, very angry. Everyone sees through their actual motives- heck this guy just admitted it was all a scam.

  9. Forget the heelsplitter…what about the flooding problem in Western Union County due to the lack of stormwater ordinances? But hey…you own the land right up to the creek bed and heaven forbid we restrict you from filling in the floodway or building in the floodplain.

    You once accused me of “wanting mine” and forget about everyone else. How do you square up your position of your “right” to build on every square inch of your land when that development floods the roads and my property, drives the overall housing market prices down due to excessive inventory (which hurts my property value), and causes taxes to increase due to the lack of planning for infrastructure?

    The “getting mine” mentality doesn’t belong to those of us who are trying to preserve a modicum of aesthetic value, keep our land and roads from flooding, provide adequate drinking water and waste management, and maintain a school system that is an asset to the region…look in the mirror.

  10. Since when did you have a right to stop anyone else from building a house and adding inventory because it “hurts your property value” ? Do you get mad at people who sell stock in public companies you also own shares in, because it hurts your value due to increased inventory?

    Everyone who moves to Marvin or Weddington wants to be the last person to move there. From a math perspective, if no new homes are ever built then MAYBE your house will become worth more due to there being no new inventory, and then people will have to fight and outbid each other for existing structures.

    Look- as I stated before there is no solution to this argument. Homeowners who don’t own any undeveloped land would like for no new homes to be built, because it will help THEIR home values to go up. Landowners would like for more houses to be built because it would make THEIR property values go up.

    The question is, are you from the communist left that feels that if 10 liberals move into an area, their 10 votes should be able to take away the rights of a farmer to develop his land, just because he has only 1 vote?

    Of course you do. And most importantly, you don’t want to have to pay that farmer a PENNY of compensation for your desire for his land to remain an open field.

    There is no middle ground. There are undeveloped land owners, and there are people living on tiny lots who have no land to develop anyway. I have yet to see either of the two groups agree on anything. Property rights are NOT a democracy. They are rights given to owners that cannot be “voted away” by the mob. It’s like asking two wolves and a sheep to vote on what’s for dinner. Thank god we have the constitution of the USA that makes ME right.

    BTW- a couple days ago I saw a huge line of 30 cars behind a tractor driving along New Town road. There were BMWs and fancy SUVs honking their horns at that farmer, and I do believe the lead car was giving the farmer the finger and trying to get him to pull off the road. I can guarantee you the people in those cars driving to their subdivision houses are the same people voting for “open space” and “preserving the farms/barns and rural feel” in the townships. Except of course they just want the illusion of farms. They don’t want to actually experience getting stuck behind farm equipment on the road, or smell manure.

  11. Just for the record…I am a registered Republican.

    And my examples were just that…examples. I never said they were my “rights.” Unlike you, I believe that one person’s rights stop where someone else’s begin. Sometimes that line can be difficult to find, but it IS there, nonetheless. You want your “rights” regardless of anyone elses. That is the fundamental difference.

  12. TracyK,

    Try reading the bill of rights. There are certain rights granted in that marvelous document that every citizen has REGARDLESS of what anyone else thinks, or wants.

    Exceptions being for people in prison and if you’ve signed a contract with the US military.

    During the recent elections, 6 states passed laws that put “property rights” in the forefront, after that ridiculous Supreme Court decision said that any local town can take land from one private party and give it to another private party if they feel like it. Remember that firestorm?

    In tokyo, for example, property rights are WAAAAY stronger than in the US. In downtown tokyo there are several houses that have been there for 70 years or more, and the owners and their families refused to sell even up to this very day. There are literally skyscrapers next door and going OVER THE TOP OF THEIR HOUSES.

    In the united states, people like you would say “well those people and their property need to go, for the greater good of the community”

    the govt in japan IS allowed to condemn land, but only if needed for a public works project. and if that project is magically “cancelled” the original owner MUST be returned their property. they aren’t allowed to give it to another private party.

    this area is all about “viewshed” buffers, of any length a town zoning official wants to imagine.. the thinking being that the car drivers driving down the road “own” the pleasant and picturesque view, and any development inside that viewshed buffer would be UNpleasant to their aesthetic sensitivities.

    So who do *you* think owns the view? The person who drives by in their car on the way to work, or the family who owns and maintains the land and property that comprise that view? Why do you think your right to a nice “view” of some land is greater than the rights of the landowner him/herself? I’m sorry- but that’s starting to sound like radical environmental socialism to me.

    And finally, everyone in union county politics is a registered republican, even though everyone involved knows it’s a gigantic lie because democrats can’t get elected. Party affiliation of convenience, nothing more.

  13. I was a Republican before I even heard of Union County (and you can spare me the speech about being a newcomer…) Once again, you go on and on about YOUR property rights without addressing the issue of when your rights violate mine. Like it or not…there is a line where yours stop and mine start. There may be disagreement as to where that line is…but all the banter you put forth won’t erase the line.

    If I have a right to enjoy my property (as you claim you do) and your failure to provide adequate open area causes my well to run dry due to excessive impervious surface, or your failure to provide stormwater retention systems causes my land to flood, or your “right” to build in the floodplain causes the road to my house to flood…then you have violated the same constitutional rights you profess to have. But, because you have been here longer or because you should be able to do whatever you like on your piece of land, or whatever other excuse you have…I should just suffer?

    And you accuse me of wanting mine and to heck with everyone else!

  14. Tracy,

    You are being less than genuine in your “reasons” for not wanting any new residents of Union County. You come up with a litany of things like stormwater runoff, building in floodplains, not enough water to drink, etc etc…Crowded schools, too much traffic, no more free “open space” etc etc. But you know as well as I do that these are the same arguments used by the defenders of the lovable Carolina Heelsplitter.

    You are starting your desire with the “no more people” concept, and then finding any excuse to hide that behind some other reason that doesn’t make you appear to be so anti-people. The Heelsplitter was already revealed to be a scam cooked up by one guy who didn’t want any more development near his house, and was told the easiest way to twist the law to his advantage to was to try and find some species, any species at all, that could be considered endangered. And so that’s exactly what they did.

    In any case, Union County has just denied twelve mile creek’s request to expand sewer capacity, so for a while you’ll have your wish- no new houses with sewer requirements will be built in Union Count anymore.

    However, you may wish to hold off on counting your luck, since over 30% of Union County residents are employed either directly or indirectly in the home construction industry. Let’s see how glad you are that no construction is happening when a third of the county is unemployed and looking for county services at your expense.

  15. Mr. Raines: Which one(s) of the Bill of Rights is applicable in this case? You reference the BOR but don’t specify which ones are meaningful to the topic at hand. I don’t see where land ownership is in the BOR. Perhaps that was by design, as our founding fathers didn’t want to see a return to the class system of England.

    As for property rights, I don’t know of any town or planning board that would consider the view of a driver over that of a property owner. However, it is the responsibility of the town council or County commissioners, as well as the planning boards, to represent all their constituents (or at least a majority of them). That is where individual property owners can collide with the needs and goals of a larger body. And when a landowner sells their land to 100 new homeowners, they are bringing in 100+ voters. And if those 100+ voters do vote contrary to the single landowner on a matter, guess who wins? We no longer use a system that determines magnitude of vote based on size of land owned; it is one person, one vote. That’s not socialism, friend; that’s the basis of our republic.

    In all seriousness, I’m interested in seeing you build your arguement. You seem inclined to stop before really filling in the details of your stand. References to Chicago and Tokyo are real reaches, so let’s pick a population that is comparable to Union County. Perhaps a surrounding county of Atlanta would be a good example of what happens when a sprawling city collides with a rural county. Anyway, let’s continue your discussion with a believable example and see where it takes us.

  16. Mr. Raines: I have to question the statistic that more than 30% of Union County’s residents are employed directly or indirectly to the home construction industry. I’ve been looking for the origin of that statistic for a long time. Was it put out by the homebuilders lobby? I doubt whether it is true unless you consider the ripple effects an industry can have, in which case a computer programmer working for a IT company is somehow included in the number. As usual, the veracity of what you write is dubious.

    Actually, you can attribute Union County’s growth indirectly to state and federal legislators who 20-30 years ago declared statewide and nationwide branch banking legal. Without Bank of America and Wachovia exercising their growth appetites enabled by this legislation Charlotte and, daresay, Union County would not be growing at the rate they have been. Union County’s economy is to some extent tied to the world economy due to all the professionals (teachers, bankers, programmers, lawyers, etc.) who have moved in so if the builders don’t build as much, that will hurt a lot less than you think….and we wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of the decline of our infrastructure. Some of the greatest places in the US have not grown in decades, yet the value of their property keeps going up (except for a slight pull back recently, but that appears to be temporary) and that is mainly due to their municipal zoning and their local economies being tied to the global economy. Think education, fella.

  17. Let me see if I can make this crystal clear…I am NOT against growth.

    Look around…out of sewer capacity, need for an IBT, not enough schools, inadequate and dangerous roads, flooding…I could go on and on. This is a function of uncontrolled and unplanned growth. This is due to a lack of vision and the nonexistence of a plausible plan.

    When did growth, based on a plan, with consideration for aesthetic value and appropriate infrastructure growing along with development become a violation of the Bill of Rights?

    Instead of translating what you think my underlying meaning is…how about actually addressing my points. Since when did flooding, lack of sewer, diminishing water availability, inadequate infrastructure, etc. become just a “litany” of excuses? These are real problems you are unwilling to confront.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: