Editorial: Investment, bond referendum needed for Rowan-Cabarrus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2019

At Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the ventilation system in one of the welding program’s rooms is so weak that classes sometimes need to take a break when cutting to allow particles in the air to clear.

The school’s automotive program isn’t able to provide body repair classes despite strong demand from employers.

Rowan County Early College, despite having some of our community’s brightest, career-minded students uses facilities that look like an afterthought — in trailers next to a well-designed college building.

It’s time to invest in education in Rowan County. And Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s $45 million bond referendum proposal is a good place to start.

In its proposal, the college has targeted in-demand programs with future growth potential as the beneficiaries of improved facilities. Rowan-Salsibury Schools will receive an estimated $10 million building that will house the Early College, too.

That county staff have predicted a 3-cent tax increase is a small, worthwhile price to pay for space to train students for 21st century jobs in robotics, virtual welding, advanced machining and automotive technology as well as improved facilities for firefighter training. That’s especially true when demand for trained workers exceeds that the school can provide.

To those with questions about the bond referendum, we’d ask, “How can we reasonably expect employers to move and expand here when workers aren’t trained for jobs of the future?”

With projections for continuing economic growth, a tax increase could end up being smaller than expected, too. Online pet product retailer Chewy.com’s fulfillment center, with an estimated $55 million investment, is a good example of that.

And most importantly, we have confidence that the school will be a good steward of the money under the direction of Carol Spalding, who was named the top community college president in the state this year. Spalding described the bond referendum’s necessity well in a Nov. 4 story (“Commissioners move forward on $45 million bond referendum”).

“The job market is bursting with opportunity in today’s advanced technological trades, and we want to help students achieve success in these fields and achieve sustainable futures full of promise and continued opportunity,” Spalding wrote in an email to the Post.

There’s been talk among some community members that a separate bond referendum should be put on this year’s ballot or that money for capital improvements in the Rowan-Salisbury School System should be added to the already proposed $45 million. But the school board has some decisions to make first about how to spend the money county commissioners have already promised. Only then can we consider whether a bond referendum for K-12 school capital is the right step.

For now, county commissioners should take steps necessary to ensure the RCCC bond referendum makes it on the ballot in time for the March primary.