Durham residents to vote this November on funding for public school, Durham Tech, Museum of Life and Science renovations

Durham residents will vote this Election Day on three separate bond referendum questions related to capital improvements for Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College and the Durham Museum of Life and Science. 

Totaling $550.2 million, these bonds will improve facilities and infrastructure for Durham’s schools and the Museum of Life and Science to support Durham’s growing population. The first bond allocates $423.5 million to Durham Public Schools, the second allocates $112.74 million to Durham Tech and the third allocates $13.995 million to the Museum of Life and Science. 

If a majority of voters approve a referendum, general obligation bonds will be used to fund the projects. 

If all three referendums are approved, it could require a 2.5 cent property tax rate increase to support debt growth from the bonds, according to a Sept. 27 presentation provided by the Durham County Commission to The Chronicle. 

Durham Public Schools

DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said that no schools for DPS have been built in the last 10 years and expressed concerns about aging facilities, according to a Sept. 27 video release by the Durham County Public Information Office. He also said some DPS schools are over capacity.

Over $400 million in funding for Durham Public Schools would support updating facilities, safety and security measures and building a new Durham School of the Arts campus. According to the presentation, these include infrastructure, roofing, HVAC improvements, and support lighting upgrades. DPS is also looking to improve and add elementary school classroom space and create new pre-K classrooms.

Mubenga emphasized the need to accommodate more students with Durham growing and classrooms exceeding capacity. By improving DPS facilities, Mubega and Umstead hope that Durham will be able to compete with nearby communities to draw in new educators and students. 

“For Durham to be competitive, we are pretty much asking the same thing that other communities are asking as well: give us good facilities so that we’ll be able to provide really good technology and a good educational setting for our students,” he said in the video.

Durham Technical Community College

The $112.7 million allocated to Durham Technical Community College would be used to construct a 36,000 square foot Life Science Training Facility and Classroom Building, an 86,000 square foot Allied Health Building and support purchasing property surrounding the college to allow for future expansion, according to the presentation.

The Life Science Training Facility and Classroom Building would provide “settings and equipment” for individuals to use when they “go into biotech facilities and biomanufacturing” fields, Durham Tech President J.B. Buxton said in the video. The Allied Health Building would provide equipment for prospective healthcare employees to be trained on.

Buxton says these projects are important for Durham County residents because life sciences and health services are two “booming job areas” for opportunities in booming job markets in Durham County and the Triangle Area.

“If we want Durham County residents to move into those jobs, we need the facilities and equipment that they can train on to be prepared to move into those jobs. These are good jobs with good wages and good career opportunities,” Buxton said.

Museum of Life and Science

The Museum of Life and Science would use the nearly $14 million it would receive from the bond to reinvent and modernize learning environments, support new exhibits focused on climate change, technological innovation and health science, and renovate meeting room space to better serve significant events.

The renovations would primarily focus on internal exhibits, many of which have been displayed for nearly 15 years, according to Carrie Heinonen, the museum’s CEO and president.

Other updates include energy conserving upgrades and renovating the cafe to provide a teaching kitchen to talk about topics such as sustainable agriculture and food deserts.

“[The bond will provide] an opportunity to upgrade the amenities that our many visitors and community members enjoy day to day,” Heinonen said in the video. 


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