On Tuesday, North Carolina voters will decide whether to support a $2 billion bond issue. Half the funds borrowed will go to the University of North Carolina system and its 16 college campuses (plus one high school).
If the voters pass the bond issue, as they are expected to, it will be Christmas in March. As the Raleigh News & Observer pointed out, “If voters say yes, NCCU [North Carolina Central University] would get $30 million toward a business school. NCSU [North Carolina State University] would get $75 million for an engineering building and $85 million for a plant sciences facility. UNC-Chapel Hill would get $68 million toward a new medical school building.”
Okay, we have to assume that the university system isn’t much bothered by threats from the advent of online education, the supposed limitations on the state’s financial support, and the decline (or at best stability) of enrollment. Expanding bricks and mortar is still a goal.
The News & Observer made another point. The schools have enormous maintenance backlogs.
The leader [three chancellors] said constructing four new buildings for Triangle campuses won’t change what the chancellors described as a large backlog of renovation and repairs. Carol Folt said UNC has $1 billion in building needs; [Randy] Woodson said deferred maintenance at NCSU is $650 million.
Where is that money supposed to come from?
The bond issue looks like just another example of a time-worn political policy: It’s always more fun for politicians and their favored constituents to attend the ribbon-cutting for handsome new buildings than to cover maintenance costs. Build up enough maintenance needs, and you’ll have to tear down and build new buildings — financed by a bond issue, of course.