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Posted on: March 14, 2018

Town Council Considers Transportation Bond Referendum

The Town Council has heard residents’ concerns about traffic congestion and wants to give them a voice in determining how the town responds with solutions.

Most major roads through Holly Springs are the state Department of Transportation's responsibility. With statewide needs far outstripping NCDOT resources, however, Holly Springs has assumed a larger role in road building over time. It has leveraged town funds to earn millions in state and federal grants while moving projects up by years.

Now the issue for town leaders is whether to take that cost-sharing concept to the next level.

At a March 13 work session on transportation, Town Council members agreed that the time has come for Holly Springs’ first-ever transportation bond referendum. Scheduling a referendum is a months-long process with many steps. Moving forward now preserves the possibility for having it during the Nov. 6 general election. The next opportunity would be the primary election in May 2019.

An outside financial analyst said the town could support the borrowing of up to $40 million. That assumes a 5-cent rise in the property tax rate starting in the 2019-20 budget year. (Currently the tax rate is 43.25 cents per $100 valuation.) The analyst used conservative projections of how much the town’s tax base would increase over the life of the bonds.

Council members said bond proceeds should be spread across town, providing benefits to residents on the east side, west side, and downtown.

The option of a transportation bond referendum has been discussed at the past two Town Council retreats. Town staff members have been developing the list of potential projects and estimated costs while conferring with financial analysts on what would be feasible financially.

Even a $40 million bond package would fall far short of paying for all priority projects in the town’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. However, some bond funds could become seed money for federal or state grants that would push total funding well above the town’s $40 million investment. Bond projects that are high enough on NCDOT’s own priority list may be eligible for partial reimbursement. That would enable the town to re-invest the money in other transportation projects.

The list of potential projects could evolve over time depending on council priorities and opportunities to partner with NCDOT.

Town Engineering Director Kendra Parrish said potential projects identified thus far fall into two categories:

  • Comparatively small, quicker turnaround projects that the town would fully fund. One potential project involves lengthening the southbound right-turn lane on N.C. 55 at the recently completed Main Street extension. Another prospect is a right-turn lane for northbound Main Street at Holly Springs Road.
  • Larger, costlier, long-term projects for which the town would seek matching funds or NCDOT reimbursement. One such potential project is widening of Sunset Lake Road, which would support the future 540 interchange.

The next step is the initial meeting with representatives of the state’s Local Government Commission, whose approval is required to hold a bond referendum.

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