CHARLOTTE – Next month, the near future of Central Piedmont Community College is in the hands of Mecklenburg County voters as they’ll hit the polls to decide, among other things, if they’ll pass a bond referendum for the school.
The $210 million bond referendum is the largest in the college’s history, said Tony Zeiss, CPCC’s president, but he added that the school isn’t asking for frivolous funding.
With enrollment continuing to increase, CPCC is running out of space for students. The college right now has one of the lowest square-foot-per-student ratios in its history. Zeiss said if voters don’t pass this round of bond money CPCC will have to turn away qualified students.
“(Right now) it’s first come first served,” he said Tuesday at a press conference. He said he wants the college to have an open-door policy for potential students, but “that door is closing because of space limitations.”
In the CPCC capital projects package, which would primarily be covered by the bond money, is about $280 million worth of construction projects and land acquisition between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2018, resulting in just less than 1 million square feet of new construction across five of the six CPCC campuses. The Harris Campus, on Charlotte’s West Side is the only campus that wouldn’t receive any work under this bond package.
County bonds would cover $210 million of the capital projects and the rest would come from the county pay-as-you-go fund, which is money the county sets aside for various items. The pay-as-you-go money has already been allocated for CPCC to use, said Kathy Drumm, executive vice president of the college.
Drumm said the planning of this five-year capital plan began in January 2012 and that CPCC officials have been working with the county since, whittling away certain aspects of the plan in order to reach an agreement. The county manager and staff approved the capital plan last year and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners voted in June to approve it.
Now the referendum goes in front of a much tougher body, Mecklenburg County voters. On Nov. 5, they’ll choose whether or not CPCC can start getting closer to state and county standards on square-foot-per-student ratios.
Drumm said that across CPCC’s six campuses, the college has about 58 square feet per student. The Cato Campus, in the University Area, has less than 50 square feet per student, she said. The state standard for this measure is 100 square feet for each student and the county standard is 90 square feet.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Drumm said the proposed capital projects would boost CPCC’s assignable square footage much closer to the state and local standards. If the bonds aren’t passed, the square footage per student will increase for a short period as 2007 bond construction projects wrap up, but will fall again without new construction, she said.
Jeff Lowrance, spokesman for CPCC, said that the college has heard little protest of its request for the $210 million, probably because the money wouldn’t come from an associated tax increase.
“Commissioner (Bill) James has come out and said there won’t be a tax increase, it’s built into the county budget,” Lowrance said. “So far, we’ve heard no opposition.”
Projects in the CPCC capital plan:
- $1.1 million for land acquisition at Levine Campus in Matthews.
- $2.3 million for land acquisition at Central Campus near Uptown
- $1 million for land acquisition at Merancas Campus in Huntersville
- $5.25 million for a renovation of the Giles Science Building at Central Campus
- $23 million for 100,000 square feet of new construction at Cato Campus
- $31.1 million for 120,000 square feet of new construction at Levine Campus
- $41.25 million for 150,000 square feet of new construction at Harper Campus in southwest Charlotte
- $25.25 million for 100,000 square feet of new construction at Central Campus
- $56.1 million for 200,000 square feet of construction on a Basic Skills Literacy Center at Central Campus
- $30.476 million for 81,500 square feet of new construction and renovations at the Terrell Building at Central Campus
- $26.5 million for 100,000 square feet of new construction at Merancas Campus
- $3.315 million for 13,000 square feet of expansion at the Hendrick Automotive Center at Levine Campus
$33.363 million for 75,000 square feet of new construction and renovations at the Advanced Technologies Center at Central Campu